Cancer survivor Lealiifano on bench for Brumbies
TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: Cancer survivor Christian Lealiifano will make his long-awaited return to Super Rugby for the Brumbies on Friday, nearly a year after being diagnosed with leukaemia.
The Wallaby flyhalf, who has been out of action since his diagnosis last August, was named Tuesday on the bench for the clash against the Hurricanes in Canberra.
Lealiifano made an emotional return to the sport last month when he appeared in his side's exhibition match against the Asia Pacific Dragons in Singapore.
The 29-year-old kicked five conversions for a 10-point contribution, playing for 30 minutes.
New Zealand-born Lealiifano, who has played 19 Tests for Australia, was diagnosed with the cancer that affects the blood and had a bone-marrow transplant operation after a successful match with his sister.
Meanwhile, head coach Stephen Larkham has reverted to most of the side that played against the Reds in Brisbane a fortnight ago with two enforced changes from that starting XV. Season ending injuries to Kyle Godwin at inside centre and Aidan Toua on the left wing, mean a start for James Dargaville out wide and Andrew Smith.
Smith showed some good form in the away game against the Chiefs last weekend and will partner Tevita Kuridrani with the backline offering plenty of pace and movement. Outside backs Tom Banks and Henry Speight are deadly strike-runners, of which the Hurricanes will be all too aware.
Up front, Sam Carter is back to lead the side in a pack that contains six Wallaby internationals with only dynamic loose forwards Chris Alcock and Jordan Smiler having not pulled on the gold jersey. Carter is partnered by Rory Arnold in the second row with Scott Fardy named alongside Alcock and Smiler in the back row.
The forward battle is likely to be key in the contest and the front row clash should set the scene. With Scott Sio, Josh Mann-Rea and Allan Alaalatoa, the Brumbies have strength, speed and great scrummaging technique.
On the bench, alongside Lealiifano, there is a spot for utility back Jordan Jackson-Hope, who made his first start of the season at fullback in Hamilton. Larkham has opted for a five-three split with Tomas Cubelli back to the replacements bench and youngster Joe Powell continuing in the scrumhalf role he has grown into throughout the campaign.
Brumbies: 15 Tom Banks, 14 Henry Speight, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Andrew Smith, 11 James Dargaville, 10 Wharenui Hawera, 9 Joe Powell, 8 Jordan Smiler, 7 Chris Alcock, 6 Scott Fardy, 5 Sam Carter (captain), 4 Rory Arnold, 3 Allan Alaalatoa, 2 Josh Mann-Rea, 1 Scott Sio.
Replacements: 16 Robbie Abel, 17 Ben Alexander, 18 Leslie Leulua'Iali'I-Makin, 19 Blake Enever, 20 Jarrad Butler, 21 Tomas Cubelli, 22 Jordan Jackson-Hope, 23 Christian Lealiifano.
Date: Friday, July 21
Venue: GIO Stadium, Canberra Stadium
Kick-off: 19.35 (21.35 NZ time; 09.35 GMT)
Referee: Glen Jackson (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Nic Berry (Australia), William Houston (Australia)
TMO: Ian Smith (Australia)
AFP & @BrumbiesRugby