Reds vs. Brumbies: Five key Wallabies clashes

Hunter Paisami runs the ball through the defence Mark Nolan/Getty Images

The set-up is tantalising. The Queensland Reds unbeaten so far this year and looking irrepressible, and the Brumbies considered Australia's best Super Rugby team for several years, facing off at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane. It has fans salivating.

But the clash will decide more than just who'll play host to this year's Super Rugby grand final, it gives fans and Wallabies coach Dave Rennie the perfect opportunity to see Australia's top players battling it out, with mouth-watering duels across the park.

The Brumbies and Reds match in Round 4 was labelled by many as the best Australian Super Rugby derby to date, and with both teams close to full strength, expect fireworks again this time around. But who'll come out on top as Wallabies favourites?

With a 40-man Wallabies national squad named for a training camp this Sunday, we already have a fair idea of who Rennie will be keeping his eye on, but there'll still be plenty of contest from players who missed out.

It's close to an even split between Reds and Brumbies players in the squad, with Rennie naming 14 players from the Brumbies and 12 from Queensland.

Here's five key contests to watch for this weekend.

3. Taniela Tupou vs. Allan Alaalatoa

The battle of the front rows will be very interesting come Saturday night, but there's definitely one contest that will have everyone watching.

Snatching headlines and several tries this season, Tupou has been the form prop in Super Rugby AU, last week alone he finished the match with a two-try haul. Known for his rampaging runs and slick support play, the 24-year-old has spent time working on his scrummaging and plays an integral part in the Reds dominant set piece.

Meanwhile, we haven't seen much of Alaalatoa this season after he was sidelined for three weeks through suspension. Before that though, he was at his hard-hitting best. Considered one of Australia's top props, he'll be keen to get back into the action and take charge of the Brumbies' most used asset, the maul. While his work isn't as flashy, Alaalatoa's workrate is huge and is key to the Brumbies success upfront.

8. Harry Wilson vs. Pete Samu:

Freely admitting on Wednesday his performances haven't been consistent, Wilson told reporters he'd been eyeing this clash as a chance to take his game to another level. Bursting onto the scene last year with his line-breaking ability, he featured in every test under Dave Rennie. Perhaps suffering under his own high standards, Wilson's barnstorming runs may not have been as frequent this season, but he's still one of the competition's leading ball carriers and has dominated plenty of breakdowns.

Samu, meanwhile, hasn't been far from the spotlight for the Brumbies. His hard ball running has secured him a few five pointers this year, while his work at the breakdown has been impressive. He played just one Test last year before he was released from the squad and he'll be hoping to make a big splash this weekend. Another pivotal cog for his side, Samu is sure to be where the ball is and making an impression either with hard hits or tackle-busting carriers.

9. Tate McDermott vs. Nic White:

One of the most exciting battles across the park, both McDermott and White will be keen to put their best foot forward in their pursuit of the Wallabies No.9 jersey. While they're not the only two halfbacks to put their hands up this season, they've certainly been the most eye-catching after Jake Gordon was sidelined for weeks and Joe Powell has been working behind a subpar forward pack.

McDermott and White have similar styles of play; sniping off the back of the ruck and quick to use their speed to slice through any gap, but White's leadership capabilities and McDermott's improving kicking game will be their points of difference. Who comes out on top in this battle could determine who takes that starting position.

10. James O'Connor vs. Noah Lolesio:

So far this year O'Connor has hardly taken a misstep. His leadership has been truly impressive after being thrust into the captaincy position, while he seems to have only grown at No.10 over the last two seasons. His vision at fly-half has been exciting to watch, as he creates and exploits gaps while his pin-point accurate passing and decision making has helped his young centre pairing shine.

It's a similar story for Lolesio, who continues his rise following a breakout 2020 that saw him make his Wallabies debut. Silky with ball in hand and with a beautiful offload game, Lolesio has relished playing outside Nic White. While only young, he's already proven he's a cool head under pressure and can be counted on to make the right decisions at crunch time.

13. Hunter Paisami vs. Len Ikitau

It's hard to imagine anyone taking Paisami's Wallabies jersey away this season after his inspiring performances at both outside and inside centre, but Ikitau's work for the Brumbies has plenty of people hoping for more this year.

Making his Wallabies debut in 2020, Paisami's game has continued to go up a level, with the centre introducing some impressive kicking to his game alongside his tackle-busting runs and hard hitting defence. A similar player, Ikitau has on more than one occasion used his impressive step to come back inside the defence while his offloads have put several teammates over the tryline.

This is one contest worth the price of admission.