Brumbies coach Stephen Larkham says Christian Lealiifano has done everything possible to throw himself into contention for a Super Rugby comeback.
Lealiifano has thrown himself into contention for inclusion for Friday night’s clash with the Reds, just 11 months after a leukaemia diagnosis, and reports emerged on Wednesday morning that he had done enough to hit another remarkable recovery milestone.
The Brumbies held off naming their bench on Wednesday, with official news on Lealiifano in that announcement on on Thursday morning, but Larkham gave every indication the playmaker was likely to be among that 23.
“He’s done everything he needs to do to get himself right for selection,” he said.
“He played a game of fourth grade on the weekend for Tuggeranong against Royals and I thought he played exceptionally well.
“Prior to that, playing in Singapore, for 30 minutes with the boys and again thought he played well so his progression has been good and he’s put himself in the mix for selection this week.”
The emotional boost Lealiifano’s involvement could have on the side was seen in that Singapore game and Larkham said that would only be magnified in a Super Rugby return.
Lealiifano’s co-captain Sam Carter doesn’t expect any power struggles when the flyahlf returns, with the playmaker to take the reins.
“He said he was going to take over everything when he gets back,” he joked.
“We spoke about that and generally when i’m on the field I run everything through the 10 anyway so that’s Christian’s spot and he’s the co-captain.
“It’s the same as last year. I ran every decision, lineout wise, through him and he speaks to me. I have absolutely no doubt that it’s going to be the same.
‘It’s going to be a seamless transition when he comes back on, just the energy he brings and the chat and the experience he has in that backline is just going to lift the boys so I’ve no doubt if selected he’s going to be good to go.”
Scott Sio will play his first Brumbies match in more than two months, after returning from a knee injury in the Wallabies’ June Series Tests.
Ben Alexander could also have the chance to break the Brumbies games record, against the current holder George Smith, if he is included on the bench.
Carter said, though, that was something they had tiptoed around this week, after a last-minute injury cost Alexander the chance to play the record-breaking match before the June break.
“We haven’t spoken about that all week because last time we spoke about it and made a big deal, he popped his knee cap out,” he said.
“So, we’re really excited for him if he gets the opportunity to play that game and ironically enough it’s against George Smith this weekend if he gets named.
“It’s an amazing achievement for him and his family and everything he’s done over the last 10 years for the Brumbies.
“I know he’s personally excited so I can’t wait to see if he gets that opportunity.”:
The Brumbies take on the Reds in Brisbane on Friday night, kicking off at 7:45pm AEST LIVE on FOX SPORTS and via RUGBY.com.au RADIO.
The team’s bench will be announced on Thursday.
The Brumbies take on the Reds on Friday night, kicking off at 7:45pm AEST LIVE on FOX SPORTS and via RUGBY.com.au RADIO.
Brumbies to take on the Reds
IN: Scott Sio
OUT: Nic Mayhew
1. Scott Sio
2. Josh Mann-Rea
3. Allan Alaalatoa
4. Rory Arnold
5. Sam Carter (C)
6. Scott Fardy
7. Chris Alcock
8. Jordan Smiler
9. Joe Powell
10. Wharenui Hawera
11. Aidan Toua
12. Kyle Godwin
13. Tevita Kuridrani
14. Henry Speight
15. Tom Banks
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