Brumbies re-sign five young rugby stars
Just a day after losing Michael Hooper to the NSW Waratahs, the Brumbies have rebounded strongly by announcing two-year contract extensions with five of their promising squad.
In-form five-eighth Christian Lealiifano, winger Henry Speight, front-rowers Scott Sio and Ruaidhri Murphy and the injured Matt Toomua have all signed on to stay with the ACT franchise for another two Super Rugby seasons.
All had been aggressively courted by other clubs but, after months of negotiation, chose to stay in Canberra as the Brumbies continue their transformation from fledgling squad to finals contenders.
Coach Jake White said it was particularly gratifying to have locked in Lealiifano, Speight and Toomua, which firms up his dream backline - and gave thanks to backs' coach Stephen Larkham for his pulling power.
"To have the backline staying together is pleasing because of all the hard work Stephen has put in since the squad came together last year," White said on Wednesday.
"He was part of the best backline this club has ever fielded so naturally our young backs have been learning plenty."
Arguably the biggest signing of the five is Lealiifano, who will play his 50th Super Rugby match in Saturday's clash with the Bulls and who fought off pressure from his mum to return home to Melbourne amid contract talks.
He's enjoying a stand-out season in the No.10 jersey for the Brumbies in the absence of first-choice five-eighth Matt Toomua, who was ruled out for the season after succumbing to a knee injury in his comeback game against the Sharks in week six.
Toomua said re-signing would give him plenty of motivation during his months of rehabilitation.
"Everyone at the club feels like we're on the edge of something special here and, with such a young squad, we have a chance to build on that over the next four or five years," he said.
"Jake's had a huge impact ... and I think we're only just starting to see some of the positives that it will bring."
The five re-signings are a boost for the club, coming just after news star flanker Hooper was defecting to the Waratahs for next season.
The Brumbies lost a three-way race along with Melbourne Rebels to secure his services.
Both northern hemisphere recruit Murphy and Sio started with the Brumbies under the extended playing squad system, but have received an upgrade after impressing White.
Meanwhile, the deal with Speight means the Fijian flyer is eligible for a Wallabies jumper within a year.
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