Canberra Super Rugby franchise the Brumbies have included Christian Lealiifano in their team to play the Super Rugby do-or-die Quarter Final against the Hurricanes at GIO Stadium.
Lealiifano has been out of Super rugby since he was diagnosed with leukaemia ten months ago but has now been named on the replacements bench.
The former Wallaby had originally made his return in Brumbies colours during the team’s Austbrokers Cup win over the Asia Pacific Dragons in Singapore in June.
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 back-line 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 back-rowers 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 full-back in Hamilton.
Larkham has opted for a 5-3 split with Tomas Cubelli back to the replacements bench and youngster Joe Powell continuing in the half-back role he has grown into throughout the campaign.
15 Tom Banks, 14 Henry Speight, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Andrew Smith, 11 James Dargaville, 10 Wharenui Hawera, 9 Joe Powell; 1 Scott Sio, 2 Josh Mann-Rea, 3 Allan Alaalatoa, 4 Rory Arnold, 5 Sam Carter (c), 6 Scott Fardy, 7 Chris Alcock, 8 Jordan Smiler.
Replacements: 16 Robbie Axel, 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