Lolesio nearing return for Brumbies as Aussie Schoolboys sensation gets chance

Super Rugby - AU
by Christy Doran

Teen sensation Reesjan Pasitoa will get another opportunity off the bench for the Brumbies against the Western Force in Canberra on Friday night as first-choice playmaker Noah Lolesio nears a return.

Lolesio, 20, hasn't played since injuring him hamstring against the Waratahs last month.

The hamstring injury was expected to keep him grounded for eight weeks.

It was a cruel blow for a young man who had caught the attention of Wallabies selectors and seen him included in Dave Rennie's Players of National Interest List in his debut season.

Brumbies coach Dan McKellar said his young playmaker was "possibly" in line for a return next week, but would continue to take a cautious approach to throwing him back in the deep end.

"As I said last week it's just an injury where you've got to be smart with," McKellar said.

"We want him back playing and available but we also don't want further issues that will hamper him for the next couple of years."

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If Lolesio doesn't play next week and the Brumbies win one of their final two matches of the regular season it would mean that the earliest he could return is in the Super Rugby AU final, with the minor-premier automatically securing a home final.

One person who would be keen to see Lolesio get back on the field is Rennie, who is yet to indicate whether he will approach 2020 as a development year to blood the next generation of young talent or opt for experienced playmakers such as James O'Connor or Matt To'omua.

With Lolesio grounded, 22-year-old playmaker Bayley Kuenzle has worn the No.10 jersey.

Kuenzle has been a steady replacement running the ship but hasn't quite the captured the eye like the fleet-footed Lolesio.

Yet McKellar says that the playmaker will have gained a lot of confidence from the Brumbies' big win over the Waratahs last weekend.

"He's taken a lot of confidence out of last week," McKellar said.

"I don't think it's any difference to Noah to be honest at the start of the year.

"Noah had that Highlanders game and it wasn't all smooth sailing for him either.

"They're young players and it's their first year at this level and they're developing so you're going to have some tough moments along the way. Pleasingly they've been able to learn from things, park mistakes if they've made them and back themselves."

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Another youngster who has been waiting in the wings for a chance is last year's Australian Schoolboys playmaker Pasitoa.

The 18-year-old oversaw Australia's upset win across the ditch and there's high hopes that the playmaker will become a household name in the years to come.

Pasitoa was named on a five forwards, three backs split to take on the Force on Friday night.

McKellar said his return to the matchday squad was reward for his efforts on the training paddock.

"Reesjan Pasitoa's been excellent at training over the last four to six weeks," he said.

"I've had a lot of conversations with him and spoken about the importance of training and competing at training and he's done that for a long period of time.

"I just thought he deserved a crack.

"He's at the early stages of his career and we're just developing him and looking at the right chance to expose him and I thought that this Friday night was that."

The Brumbies can lock up top spot on the Australian conference standings with victory over the winless Force.

But McKellar said his side wouldn't be taken the match for granted.

"They've got quality," McKellar said.

"There's a lot of internationals in that side. Guys that have won World Cups and won Super Rugby comps, really proud footballers, so they'll turn up here full of physicality and enthusiasm and we've got to be ready to bring that ourselves.

"I don't think that we'll have any issues with complacency with our boys. These guys are a pretty humble group and respect the opposition. We know a lot of them and know that if we don't give them that respect and turn up with intensity with our performance we'll be disappointed." 

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