If the Brumbies fail to finish the year without their first major silverware since 2004, they’ll look back at their stumble against the Force as the moment they bottled it.

The Brumbies might have had to rest several Wallabies under Rugby Australia’s workload management, but making 12 changes and resting several Test stars always looked wrong.

Not only was it another slap in the face of the tournament, resting so many against a plucky Force side, who remain unbeaten at home in 2023, was madness.

Rather than resting one or two here and there over successive weeks, they attempted to rest them in one heap. It came back to bite them in the backside as their discipline, structure and connection went out the back door.

Marley Pearce celebrates his match-winning try against the Brumbies at HBF Park on May 20, 2023, in Perth, Australia. (Photo by James Worsfold/Getty Images)

Larkham later explained the Brumbies had mapped out their workload management late last year, saying the six-day turnaround and travel to Perth were contributing factors in the decision. Rip the bandaid off, get it done, and hope they come back with their finals destiny in their own hands was the plan.

But with a top two finish at stake, potentially even top spot, plans surely had to be shelved? The chance to not leave Canberra in June was a big one. And that’s not even bringing in the extra gatekeeping on offer, too.

Western Force celebrate their huge win over the Brumbies at HBF Park on May 20, 2023, in Perth, Australia. (Photo by James Worsfold/Getty Images)

Now, Larkham’s men are walking a tightrope to finish in the top two.

They’ll likely have to win their final two matches, starting with the Chiefs on Saturday, to stand a chance of finishing ahead of the Crusaders.

The stakes are high because winning one knockout match in New Zealand is possible. Twice, well, history shows it’s impossible. That’s why victory in Perth was essential.

Simon Cron effect

You’ve got to tip your hat to Cron’s Force side.

Changes, mass changes no less, rarely click immediately. Just ask the Brumbies.

But he is getting plenty out of what he’s got to work with. Locks Felix Kalapu and Jeremy Williams have come on leaps and bounds while Super Rugby rookie Max Burey looks comfortable.

That shows Cron’s coaching pedigree.

Simon Cron’s Western Force side are unbeaten at home in 2023. (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)

More and more people are considering answering Cron’s call – he’s a relentless operator in the pursuit of people and success – and that’s being helped by the Force’s encouraging performances.

Their opening 20 minutes was the best rugby they have played all year.

While the Brumbies’ discipline hurt them, they were played out of the game early.

The Force are hoping Izack Rodda returns this weekend. If he does, they’ll add a world class lock to their promising youth.

Jorgo’s best yet – but is he best served being with the Junior Wallabies?

Max Jorgensen delivered his best game of the year to date against the Drua.

He didn’t impose himself like Israel Folau once did in the fullback jersey, but the subtleties in his work revealed the fine player Australian rugby has at their disposal.

Twice he set up his wingers in the first half by delivering the final pass, but it was his work in the second half that was just as impressive.

With lots of work to be done, he put on a masterclass on how to make an overlap.

Mark Nawaqanitawase benefitted by freakishly playing his part along with Joey Walton in a phenomenal try, but Jorgensen’s footwork and ability to run the ball in two hands helped set up the overlap.

Max Jorgensen’s fine work continued against Fiji. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

The question is, at 18, is Jorgensen ready for a World Cup?

His sheer talent has him in the conversation, and the calm, composed head on his shoulders is very impressive, but a Junior Wallabies campaign could serve him best.

He would start at fullback for the Junior Wallabies and play alongside his Waratahs teammates Teddy Wilson and Jack Bowen.

That trio promises to be the Waratahs’ attacking spine in the years to come – and it could be the Wallabies, too.

History shows that success and combinations forged and developed at the junior levels is vital.

The Rebels are on the right track despite a season of what-ifs

One thing has changed about the Rebels in 2023: people outside of Melbourne actually enjoy watching them.

It’s not just that they’ve played some good rugby in 2023, it’s the style of rugby they have played.

Words (fast and fearless) have translated into actions on the field.

Development has been on show at the Rebels.

Carter Gordon has been Australia’s most exciting player – and in their top five best performers for the season – while Lachie Anderson has gone from a player who couldn’t catch a cold to a reliable, Super Rugby quality winger on both sides of the ball. Both look at home in Super Rugby.

The Melbourne Rebels’ finals hopes are likely gone, but they are on the right track. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

The same can be said about their second row stocks, which are improving by the game and their hard-working back-row.

Now, the polish needs to come.

Thankfully the Rebels management, led by Nick Stiles, has already re-signed their coaching team.

This is different from the Waratahs under Daryl Gibson – whose Wallabies-laden side was breaking up – because the Rebels are on an upwards curve.  

Will Skelton is a must-pick for the Wallabies

In four of Leinster’s past five exits from the European Cup, there is a common denominator: Will Skelton.

The giant lock etched his name into more history in the early hours of Sunday morning, as he helped bring La Rochelle back from the dead in Dublin.

Despite Leinster racing out of the blocks to lead 17-0, La Rochelle inched their way back to trail 23-14 at half-time.

By full-time, La Rochelle had broken the hearts of Leinster again by claiming an incredible 27-26 victory.

Skelton was crucial to their success.

Will Skelton celebrates on the final whistle following their Heineken Champions Cup Final win over Leinster at Aviva Stadium on May 20, 2023 in Dublin. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

The 31-year-old’s ability to get his side over the gain line from static ball was incredible.

He’s unmoveable at rucks and his work at the lineout was impressive, too.

Ireland’s side is heavily influenced by Leinster, with the vast majority of the players coming out of Dublin in Andy Farrell’s side.

Skelton is Leinster’s kryptonite.

He’s a must for the World Cup because he’ll provide the internationally hardened body the Wallabies need to compete in France, but he’s also a winner.

Before that though, he must put his hand up to be selected for the Rugby Championship.

Skelton’s got to be fit and he can’t just be parachuted into the side at the last second.

Christy Doran’s Australian Super Rugby team of the week

Te Tera Faulkner, Folau Fainga’a, Harry Johnson-Holmes, Darcy Swain, Jeremy Williams, Will Harris, Michael Hooper, Rahboni Vosayaco, Issak Fines-Leleiwasa, Max Burey, Mark Nawaqanitawase, Hamish Stewart, Sam Spink, Lachie Anderson, Max Jorgensen.

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