Brumbies play it safe with possible Lealiifano return

Super Rugby
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Christian Lealiifano’s Brumbies comeback may finally come this weekend, when the Brumbies face the Hurricanes in their quarter-final.

Lealiifano, who was diagnosed with leukaemia just shy of a year ago, was on the verge of inclusion in the Brumbies’ round 15 side to face the Reds, but a hamstring niggle ruled him out.

Brumbies coach Stephen Larkham said he didn’t feel like it would be a gamble to name Lealiifano, despite the playmaker having played half an hour in Singapore and a fourth-grade game for Tuggeranong.

Lealiifano was part of a group of Brumbies who did extra training in Canberra last weekend, in lieu of playing against the Chiefs, with Larkham making 12 changes to his starting side to preserve some of his more match-hardened players.

Larkham said on Monday that left him in no doubt that Lealiifano would be ready.

“It would be a gamble if I thought he wasn't right to play, definitely,” he said.

“We'll make that assessment this afternoon, we'll see how he trains and we'll announce the team tomorrow.

“The way he's trained with the team over the last three months, gives me fair indication that he's ready to play.”

The Brumbies should welcome back a swathe of starters for Friday night’s clash, including Rory Arnold and Chris Alcock, who both had injury concerns last week.

Larkham has already begun talking up the side’s quarter-final opponents, the Hurricanes, though few would dispute their quality after they ended the Crusaders’ unbeaten run on the weekend.

After playing the Chiefs last weekend, the Brumbies mentor was open about a desire for a second clash with the Waikato side in as many weeks.

“It would've been nice to play the Chiefs,” he said.

“We've got a really good feel for how they play the game, so it would've been nice to back up and play again but now the challenge is the Hurricanes.

“Knocking off the Crusaders who are unbeaten, I'd say the Hurricanes are the best New Zealand side in the competition, so we've got our work cut out for us.”

The Brumbies take on the Hurricanes in Canberra on Friday night, kicking off at 7:35pm AEST LIVE on FOX SPORTS and via RADIO.