After three rounds the top of the leader board is beginning to cramp with the Reds holding a one point lead over the Brumbies, but with Queensland sitting out Round 4 with a bye, the Brumbies have the perfect opportunity to move into top spot.
Sydneysiders are set to be treated with a weekend of rugby with both matches taking place in the harbour city. Due to COVID restrictions, the Waratahs and Rebels have swapped fixtures, while the Force will play their home match at Leichhardt oval.
The Brumbies are yet to be beaten after two matches, but they'll face a tough task when they take on the Force on Saturday night. Meanwhile, the Rebels and Waratahs face off in a middle-of-the-table clash as Melbourne look to close the gap with the leading sides.
Read on for the team lists, odds and analysis of both this weekend's fixtures.
Friday, July 24
Waratahs: Jack Maddocks, James Ramm, Joey Walton, Karmichael Hunt, Alex Newsome, Will Harrison, Mitch Short, Jack Dempsey, Michael Hooper, Lachlan Swinton, Rob Simmons, Ned Hanigan, Harry Johnson-Holmes, Tom Horton, Tom Robertson.
Replacements: Joseph Cotton, Te Tera Faulkner, Chris Talakai, Tom Staniforth, Jed Holloway, Jake Gordon, Mark Nawaqanitawase, Ben Donaldson
Rebels: Dane Haylett-Petty, Andrew Kellaway, Reece Hodge, Bill Meakes, Marika Koroibete, Matt To'omua, Ryan Louwrens, Michael Wells, Richard Hardwick, Josh Kemeny, Trevor Hosea, Matt Philip, Pone Fa'amausili, Jordan Uelese, Cameron Orr.
Replacements: Efi Ma'afu, Matt Gibbon, Jermaine Ainsley, Michael Stolberg, Esei Haangana, Robert Leota, Frank Lomani, Andrew Deegan
Odds [tab.com.au]: Waratahs $1.80 (-1.5 $2.05), Rebels $2.00 (+1.5 $1.77)
Verdict: Naming an unchanged starting side after last weekend's final minute loss to the Brumbies, the Waratahs will be keen to get back into the winner's circle and close the gap on the competition front-runners. Despite leaking 24 points last weekend, the Waratahs defence has had a massive uptick, while their attack has begun to look more fluid and has earned an edge with Will Harrison, Joey Walton and James Ramm finding some form. Sitting out last weekend, the Rebels will be well rested as they head into their fourth week on the road. Unable to return home due to COVID restrictions, life on the road may be taking it's toll, but they'll be pushing to make up for their R2 draw with the Reds. Their exciting backline - which welcomes back Reece Hodge - should test the Waratahs defence, but their forwards must stand up in the continued absence of Isi Naisarani. Waratahs by 7.
Saturday, July 25
Force: Jack McGregor, Byron Ralston, Marcel Brache, Henry Taefu, Brad Lacey, Jono Lance, Nick Frisby, Brynard Stander, Tevin Ferris, Hnery Stowers, Fergus Lee Warner, Jeremy Thrush, Kieran Longbottom, Feleti Kaitu'u, Angus Wagner
Replacements: Andrew Ready, Chris Heiberh, Tom Sheminant, Ollie Atkins, Ollie Callan, Jacob Abel, Richard Kahui, Kyle Godwin
Brumbies: Tom Banks, Solomone Kata, Tevita Kuridrani, Irae Simone, Tom Wright, Bayley Kuenzle, Joe Powell, Pete Samu, Will Miller, Rob Valetini, Nick Frost, Murray Douglas, Allan Alaalatoa, Folau Fainga'a, Scott Sio
Replacements: Connal McInerney, Harry Lloyd, James Slipper, Hen Hyne, Lachlan McCaffrey, Isaak Fines, Mack Hansen, Andy Muirhead
Odds [tab.com.au]: Force $5.50 (+14.5 $1.90), Brumbies $1.15 (-14.5 $1.90)
Verdict: The Force have demonstrated they're not in the competition to make up numbers. Chancing their arm with ball in hand and producing some truly exciting rugby, they gave the Reds a real scare last weekend but have yet to play out a full 80 minutes. The Brumbies will be a real test for the returning side, as they look for their first win. Meanwhile, the Brumbies will be happy with their performance against the Waratahs last week, but will be hoping for more consistency in their forward pack, who struggled at set-piece several times last weekend. With the loss of Noah Lolesio, Bayley Kuenzle gets his chance to start and make an impression, if he finds his feet, the Brumbies will be hard to stop. Brumbies by 12