Canberra’s Brumbies have named their Super Rugby team to play the Sunwolves in Tokyo on Saturday and included four players who will make their Brumbies debuts.
The four new players – lock Richie Arnold, flanker Rob Valetini, number eight Isi Naisarani and winger Chance Peni – have all been named in the starting line up.
The robust Valetini will line up in an all-new look backrow alongside Naisarani with former Olympic Sevens star Tom Cusack making his first start for the club having been a replacement on his rare appearances in 2017.
Richie Arnold will partner club 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 Quarter Final 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 half-back 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 that should provide plenty of pace and the important knack of knowing the way to the try-line.
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 yesterday (Wednesday) morning.
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.
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. Les Leuluaialii-Makin, 19. Rory Arnold, 20. Lachlan McCaffrey, 21. Matt Lucas, 22. Wharenui Hawera, 23. Lausii Taliauli.