Wallaby prop to make Brumbies debut
TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: Flyhalf Christian Lealiifano will lead the Brumbies into action in their first Super Rugby match of 2019 after being named as captain for the clash with the Rebels at GIO Stadium.
Lealiifano is one of eleven players in the starting XV that have international experience and will form a mobile and exciting halfback partnership with scrum-half Joe Powell.
New signing James Slipper is given the nod to start in the front row, for his first Brumbies run, alongside Wallabies rake Folau Fainga’a and the solid, and effective, Allan Alaalatoa.
There’s bulk in the second row with Rory Arnold and Sam Carter paired together whilst the World Class David Pocock, who is vice-captain, will pack down in the back row along with young tyro Rob Valetini and the experienced Lachlan McCaffrey.
Outside the Powell-Lealiifano axis, Irae Simone will make his Brumbies debut, head coach Dan McKellar picking Simone at inside centre in a potentially devastating combination with Tevita Kuridrani, the latter having been in sparkling form in the trial matches against the Rebels and Waratahs.
Out wide, Henry Speight, who spent the Super Rugby off-season with Ulster in the Pro14 competition, begins on the right flank with Toni Pulu selected and gaining his first cap on the opposite flank. Tom Banks rounds out the starting side at fullback.
There is plenty of experience amongst the replacements with Brumbies fans likely to see a first cap for the strong carrying Pete Samu, who provides cover in the back row.
Wallaby international Scott Sio, the ageless hooker Josh Mann-Rea and the always reliable Leslie Leuluaialii-Makin are the front row options, with Blake Enever, Wharenui Hawera and Matt Lucas rounding out the initial matchday 23.
Brumbies: 15 Tom Banks, 14 Henry Speight, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Irae Simone, 11 Toni Pulu, 10 Christian Lealiifano (captain), 9 Joe Powell, 8 Lachlan McCaffrey, 7 David Pocock, 6 Rob Valetini, 5 Sam Carter, 4 Rory Arnold, 3 Allan Alaalatoa, 2 Folau Fainga’a, 1 James Slipper.
Replacements: 16 Josh Mann-Rea, 17 Scott Sio, 18 Leslie Leuluaialii-Makin, 19 Blake Enever, 20 Peter Samu, 21 Matt Lucas, 22 Wharenui Hawera, 23 Andy Muirhead.
Date: Friday, February 15
Venue: GIO Stadium, Canberra
Kick-off: 19.45 (08.45 GMT)
Referee: Ben O’Keeffe (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Angus Gardner (Australia), Damon Murphy (Australia)
TMO: James Leckie (Australia)
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