It leaves the Brumbies with recalled scrumhalf Matt Lucas and Jordan Jackson-Hope as the back-line sparks, but McKellar made his selection decisions based on the Reds’ uncompromising game plan.
The Brumbies haven’t won in Brisbane since 2015, struggling to match the Reds intensity in the Sunshine State. It’s a bizarre run given the Brumbies have beaten the Reds by a total of 131-55 in the past three games in Canberra.
“The Reds will certainly be looking to assert some dominance in the forwards, but so will we,” McKellar said.
“The afternoon kick-off in Brisbane, different conditions to what we normally play in, so to have the ability to bring on six fresh forwards was something we discussed and thought was well worthwhile this weekend.
“They’re always tough in Brisbane and I’m pretty sure with [Brad Thorn and Peter Ryan] leading the charge, it’s going to be nice and physical.”
Slipper and Scott Sio will form a tag-team loosehead combination to lock horns with Taniela “Tongan Thor” Tupou in a mouth-watering Wallabies front-row battle.
It wasn’t that long ago Slipper and Tupou teamed up to destroy the Brumbies’ scrum early last year, but Slipper moved to Canberra for a career fresh start when he was ostracised by Queensland coach Brad Thorn.
“Whether he’s got a point to prove or it’s a new stage of his career,” McKellar said of Slipper.
“He always speaks very highly of his time at the Reds, he’s had a fair portion of his life in and around Ballymore. He’s got great memories from there, but now he’s at our club and we’re really pleased with the contribution he’s making.
“Slips has played more than 100 games of Super Rugby and more than 80 Tests, he knows what’s important this weekend is just doing his job well.”
The Brumbies are hopeful Allan Alaalatoa and David Pocock will be fit to play against the Canterbury Crusaders on April 6 and opted against rushing them back because they have the bye next week.
McKellar has been juggling injuries, squad rotations and the need to rest Wallabies. Alaalatoa and Pocock have already fulfilled their required Wallabies resting period because of injuries.
But McKellar is expected to make major changes for the clash against the Crusaders and rest the bulk of his Wallabies stars, likely including Folau Faingaa, Rory Arnold and Tevita Kuridrani, to meet the terms agreed on with Rugby Australia.
Injuries to Pocock (calf), Rob Valetini (knee) and Ben Hyne (knee) is testing the Brumbies’ back-row stocks. Valetini will miss up to two months while Hyne won’t play this season after having his second knee reconstruction.
But their injuries have opened the door for Brown to get a chance in Canberra after initially signing a training contract and then being elevated when the squad was hit by setbacks.
Brown, a former New Zealand under-20s back-rower, has been waiting for an opportunity to step up after being in the Chiefs’ feeder system, but had to move to Canberra for his first crack at Super Rugby.
“[Recruitment manager] Chris Tindall was aware of Jahrome and he was held in high regard,” McKellar said.
“The likelihood was that he would return to New Zealand before Christmas, but he impressed from day one. He’s very physical, very fit and has good skills. He knows his way around the field.
“He’s committed to us and we’ve extended his agreement. He gets his opportunity now … he has a great engine.”
SUPER RUGBY ROUND SIX
Sunday: Queensland Reds v ACT Brumbies at Suncorp Stadium, 4.05pm. TV time: Live on Fox Sports.
Brumbies: 1. James Slipper, 2. Folau Faingaa, 3. Les Leuluaialii-Makin, 4. Rory Arnold, 5. Sam Carter, 6. Pete Samu, 7. Tom Cusack, 8. Lachlan McCaffrey, 9. Joe Powell, 10. Christian Lealiifano, 11. Lausii Taliauli, 12. Irae Simone, 13. Tevita Kuridrani, 14. Henry Speight, 15. Tom Banks. Reserves: 16. Josh Mann-Rea, 17. Scott Sio, 18. Tom Ross, 19. Blake Enever, 20. Murray Douglas, 21. Jahrome Brown, 22. Matt Lucas, 23. Jordan Jackson-Hope.
Reds: 1. Feao Fotuaika, 2. Alex Mafi, 3. Taniela Tupou, 4. Harry Hockings, 5. Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, 6. Angus Scott-Young, 7. Liam Wright, 8. Scott Higginbotham, 9. Tate McDermott, 10. Bryce Hegarty, 11. Sefa Naivalu, 12. Samu Kerevi, 13. Chris Feauai-Sautia, 14. Filipo Daugunu, 15. Hamish Stewart. Reserves: 16. Brandon Paenga-Amosa, 17. Harry Hoopert, 18. Ruan Smith, 19. Izack Rodda, 20. Fraser McReight, 21. Moses Sorovi, 22. Duncan Paia’aua, 23. Isaac Lucas.
Chris Dutton is the sports editor at The Canberra Times.