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Super Rugby 2016: Brumbies' Christian Lealiifano to play five-eighth against Hurricanes

ACT Brumbies co-captain Christian Lealiifano looks set to get first crack at flyhalf duties ahead of Matt Toomua in their Super Rugby season-opener against the Wellington Hurricanes at Canberra Stadium on Friday night.

But they could share the No.10 and inside centre duties throughout the season, depending on who their opponent is.

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Brumbies coach Stephen Larkham was keeping his cards close to his chest about the make-up of his team to face the Hurricanes in a rematch of last year's semi-final when the Brumbies were knocked out of the title race in Wellington.

While Toomua assumed the flyhalf duties in the Brumbies' first trial against the NSW Waratahs in Wagga Wagga, Lealiifano took over the No.10 jersey last weekend against the Queensland Reds with Toomua moving to inside centre.

That looks the likely option again against the Hurricanes.

Toomua started last year as the first-choice flyhalf, but Lealiifano took the reins when Toomua suffered an ankle injury and he remained there when Toomua returned.


Larkham said they would look to mix and match the two playmaking roles depending on who they were up against.

He said they both brought different attributes to the roles that could be utilised against different opponents.

"We have the ability to switch it around depending on who we come up against - you can attack in different ways and defend in different ways," Larkham said.

"It gives you a couple of different options depending on how they're played. You can look at the different skills of each player and play around with that depending on which combination you go with.

"They've both got a good skill set to play five-eighth or 12. The way the [other] guys respond to them, we change the combination up there and get a different effect on the team."

Larkham was expecting Wallabies prop Scott Sio to be fit enough to start against the Hurricanes after an injury interrupted pre-season.

Sio came back from last year's World Cup with elbow and knee injuries and came off the bench in the Brumbies' trial against the Reds last weekend.

Allan Alaalatoa started that game and Larkham said there was plenty of competition for spots on both sides of the front row.

"[Sio] played against the Reds and certainly trained very well last week and we spoke to him about that," Larkham said.

"He's one that's certainly in line for starting. The competition in the front row, not just the loosehead side, but the tighthead side as well, they're doing really well."

While some Super Rugby provinces had a third-and-final trial, the Brumbies opted to train on Sunday instead.

Their preference has been to have just the two pre-season games, although Larkham said that could change going forward.

He said it allowed any of the players carrying niggles to freshen up before the campaign gets underway in earnest.

"We've preferred that over the last couple of years and we think that's worked well for us again this year. But that's not to say we won't change it next year," he said.

"That's the plan - to have this weekend off to make sure they get over any little niggling injuries and are right to go, 100 per cent, on the weekend."


Friday: ACT Brumbies v Wellington Hurricanes at Canberra Stadium, 7.40pm. Tickets available at Ticketek.


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