"Friendly fire" is set to keep James Slipper sidelined for the next stretch of the ACT Brumbies Super Rugby AU campaign after a training mishap left him in a knee brace.
Slipper's absence opens the door for Scott Sio to return to the Brumbies' starting XV for a clash with the Melbourne Rebels at Canberra Stadium on Saturday night.
Sio has missed the opening fortnight of the season but will return from a back injury to bolster the front-row in an example of coach Dan McKellar's embarrassment of riches, with Harry Lloyd retaining his place on the bench.
Yet McKellar concedes he was left with "a sour taste" in his mouth after Slipper was injured during a training session on Tuesday with the veteran prop to undergo scans.
Slipper has been a shining light for the Brumbies in their unbeaten start and McKellar hopes the injury will not be long-term.
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"We trained really well [on Tuesday] as a group, a bit of a sour taste in my mouth with Slips because he has been really good," McKellar said.
"Fortunately we have got excellent depth in that position and fingers crossed it's not going to be long-term. In a couple of weeks we will see where he is at but he is off for scans.
"Scotty has prepared well, got 60 minutes last week with the Runners, and Lloydy has been really good off the bench off the back of a really good pre-season. Pleased Lloydy gets a crack."
Solomone Kata returns to the 23-man squad for his first game of the season, with Issak Fines-Leleiwasa making way on the bench.
Connal McInerney retains his place at hooker with Folau Fainga'a set to spend another week out with a toe injury.
James Tucker has joined the bench to pave the way for a potential club debut after injuries threatened to derail the 26-year-old ex-Waikiato Chiefs lock's career, with Nick Frost falling off the pine.
"Big James Tucker is looking at his first game for the Brumbies which is a great story, he has had to face and deal with a lot of adversity injury-wise, Tucks," McKellar said.
"Really pleased that he is back playing Super Rugby because it has been a while. It's just that time of the year, I thought it was the right time to rotate guys that deserve an opportunity.
"He is a good fella. He just goes about his work, got plenty of experience, whilst he hasn't played a whole lot of Super Rugby games, he knows his way around a footy field.
"Boys like him off the field which is good, a good sense of humour for a New Zealander. We enjoy his company."
Sio played last week in a match for the Brumbies Runners against a NSW Waratahs A outfit.
His time on the sideline also gave him a chance to get an early look at the Rebels after coaching the Runners against the Super Rugby side a fortnight ago. Now he wants to make the most of "a good insight".
"I'm turning 30 this year, so all these years are catching up to me. With niggles, and back and hip stuff, you've just got to be cautious with it," Sio said.
"I play in a position where I've just got to be quite strong through there. Making sure I'm in the right physical condition to train and put myself in the selection frame was the most important thing.
"It's been one of the great things the Brumbies have been able to utilise the past two years. It's worked well for us, [Slipper] has been one of our best performers over the past two weeks in Super Rugby.
"Unfortunate with what happened but we're hoping it's not too serious."
SUPER RUGBY AU ROUND THREE
Saturday: ACT Brumbies v Melbourne Rebels at Canberra Stadium, 7.45pm. Broadcast: Live on Gem and Stan Sport. Tickets from Ticketek.
ACT Brumbies squad: 1. Scott Sio, 2. Connal McInerney, 3. Allan Alaalatoa (c), 4. Darcy Swain, 5. Cadeyrn Neville, 6. Rob Valetini, 7. Jahrome Brown, 8. Pete Samu, 9. Nic White, 10. Noah Lolesio, 11. Mack Hansen, 12. Irae Simone, 13. Len Ikitau, 14. Andy Muirhead, 15. Tom Banks. Replacements: 16. Lachlan Lonergan, 17. Harry Lloyd, 18. Tom Ross, 19. James Tucker, 20. Tom Cusack, 21. Ryan Lonergan, 22. Reesjan Pasitoa, 23. Solomone Kata.
Melbourne Rebels squad: 1. Cabous Eloff, 2. James Hanson, 3. Pone Fa'amausili, 4. Ross Haylett-Petty, 5. Trevor Hosea, 6. Joshua Kemeny, 7. Richard Hardwick, 8. Michael Wells, 9. Joe Powell, 10. Matt To'omua, 11. Marika Koroibete, 12. Reece Hodge, 13. Stacey Ili, 14. Lachlan Anderson, 15. Tom Pincus. Replacements: 16. Ed Craig, 17. Isaac Aedo Kailea, 18. Lucio Sordoni, 19. Steve Cummins, 20. Robert Leota, 21. James Tuttle/Brad Wilkin/Tom Nowlan (TBC), 22. Frank Lomani, 23. Glen Vaihu.
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