Arnold twin to make Brumbies debut
TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: The Brumbies have announced a strong side for their first fixture of the 2018 Super Rugby season as they prepare to face the Sunwolves in a chilly Tokyo on Saturday.
Four players will make their Brumbies debuts in the starting XV with lock Richie Arnold, flank Rob Valetini, No.8 Isi Naisarani and wing Chance Peni all making a Super Rugby bow for the ACT side.
The robust Valetini will line up in an all-new look back row alongside Naisarani with former Olympic Sevens star Tom Cusack making his first start for the team having been a replacement on his rare appearances in 2017.
Richie Arnold will partner co-captain Sam Carter in a mobile and powerful second row with Ben Alexander and Allan Alaalatoa packing down either side of hooker Josh Mann-Rea as Scott Sio remains in Canberra nursing a minor niggle.
Christian Lealiifano will lead the team out for the opening match of the campaign, his first start in Super Rugby since the quarterfinal clash with the Highlanders in July 2016, having been a half-time replacement in last season's last-eight clash with the Hurricanes.
Lealiifano will form a halfback partnership with young Wallaby Joe Powell and the pair will be aiming to release a backline stacked with potential. An all-international centre pairing of Kyle Godwin and Tevita Kuridrani bring power and guile to the midfield with three genuine finishers in back-field.
Henry Speight and new-boy Peni will run out with 2017 breakthrough star Tom Banks in a back three.
New scrumhalf Matt Lucas is named amongst the finishers on the bench with Lachlan McCaffrey also poised for a return to Super Rugby action in Brumbies colours following a spell overseas at London Welsh and Leicester Tigers.
Following a pre-season campaign that saw a comfortable win over the Rebels in Queanbeyan and a good second half display against the Chiefs on the Sunshine Coast, hopes are high for the squad who landed in Tokyo on Wednesday.
The team settled into their hotel in the early hours before a leisurely day preceded a tough day of training at the base of Japanese Champions Suntory Sungoliath today.
Brumbies: 15 Tom Banks, 14 Henry Speight, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Kyle Godwin, 11 Chance Peni, 10 Christian Lealiifano, 9 Joe Powell, 8 Isi Naisarani, 7 Tom Cusack, 6 Rob Valetini, 5 Sam Carter, 4 Richie Arnold, 3 Allan Alaalatoa, 2 Josh Mann-Rea, 1 Ben Alexander.
Replacements: 16 Robbie Abel, 17 Faalelei Sione, 18 Leslie Leuluaialii-Makin, 19 Rory Arnold, 20 Lachlan Mccaffrey, 21 Matt Lucas, 22 Wharenui Hawera, 23 Lausii Taliauli.
Date: Saturday, February 24
Venue: Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium, Tokyo
Kick-off: 13.15 (15.15 AEST; 04.15 GMT)
Referee: Paul Williams (New Zealand)
Referee: Egon Seconds (South Africa), Shuhei Kubo (Japan)
TMO: Minoru Fuji (Japan)