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ACT Brumbies fight to keep grip on stars

Scott Fardy, left, yelling out instructions to team mates. Click for more photos

Brumbies first training

The ACT Brumbies' first training session of 2014. Photo: Jeffrey Chan

The ACT Brumbies will ramp up contract negotiations this month as they begin a bold bid to keep their off-contract stars in Canberra. But the Super Rugby grand finalists will contend with a new Australian Rugby Union contract system, which looms as the biggest threat to the Brumbies' hopes of retaining their squad.

The Brumbies returned to training at the University of Canberra on Monday to start preparations for the Super Rugby season-opener on February 22.

The team's focus is firmly on beating the Queensland Reds in their first match.

But coach Stephen Larkham will start piecing together his squad for the future with five Wallabies searching for new deals and several Brumbies off contract at the end of the season.

The ARU is implementing a new contract structure, under which the ARU will determine how much Super Rugby players are worth and set the price for franchises.

It limits the bidding war between Australian teams but, with the Brumbies boasting a dozen Wallabies representatives, it will put extra pressure on their salary cap. In the past, Super Rugby and ARU deals have been negotiated separately.

Wallabies Scott Fardy, Matt Toomua, Christian Lealiifano, Scott Sio and Jesse Mogg will all be hoping for new contracts as well as a host of Super Rugby regulars.

Fardy was unfazed by the looming contract negotiations and reiterated his intention was to stay in Canberra.

The 29-year-old had his first sessions with the Brumbies on Monday after a breakout 2013 campaign, during which he made his Wallabies debut and played 10 Tests. Unknown two years ago, a bearded Fardy has a cult following and joked it was ''nice to be wanted for a change''.

''Nothing has changed, it's all just the same for me,'' Fardy said.

''It's nice to be wanted but I'm not too fussed. It's a long season and when things happen, they'll happen. I just want to take my time and do the right thing by everyone.

''I feel like I'm ready to go again and I was keen to get back to have a session with the boys.''

Wallabies trio Ben Alexander, Stephen Moore and Lealiifano are the only players who are not back on the field.

Alexander and Moore will return next week while Lealiifano is recovering from ankle surgery and will be out of action until March.

Skipper Ben Mowen is back at training despite playing almost every minute of every Super Rugby game and Test last season.

Director of rugby Laurie Fisher said there would be ''no mindless running'' in pre-season training.

The Brumbies will play their first trial match against the Otago Highlanders in Queenstown on January 31 but Wallabies players will be rested.

''Our progress will be rapid from here,'' Fisher said. ''Our game has scope for improvement - we're not looking to be too different in [2014] but we need a little more pace, power and accuracy.''

Fisher, who is also the Brumbies' forwards coach, said Fardy had met every challenge thrown at him since the ACT recruited him from Japan.

''I'm yet to see him [do] anything other [than] deliver a good performance … I don't see that being any different this year,'' Fisher said. ''He's a super important part of the Brumbies system and culture.

''We definitely want to keep him and we'll do everything we can to do that.''

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Round 1
Sat, 19 SepTimes shown AEST
ENG 0vs FJI 0 05:00Twic
TGA 0vs GEO 0 21:00Kholm
IRE 0vs CAN 0 23:30MilS
Sun, 20 SepTimes shown AEST
SAF 0vs JPN 0 01:45Brig
FRA 0vs ITA 0 05:00Twic
SAM 0vs USA 0 21:00Brig
WAL 0vs URU 0 23:30MilS
Mon, 21 SepTimes shown AEST
NZL 0vs ARG 0 01:45Wemb
Wed, 23 SepTimes shown AEST
SCO 0vs JPN 0 23:30Kholm
Thu, 24 SepTimes shown AEST
AUS 0vs FJI 0 01:45MilS
FRA 0vs ROM 0 05:00Olym
Fri, 25 SepTimes shown AEST
NZL 0vs NAM 0 05:00Olym
Sat, 26 SepTimes shown AEST
ARG 0vs GEO 0 01:45Kholm
ITA 0vs CAN 0 23:30Ella
Sun, 27 SepTimes shown AEST
SAF 0vs SAM 0 01:45Villa
ENG 0vs WAL 0 05:00Twic
AUS 0vs URU 0 21:00Villa
SCO 0vs USA 0 23:30Ella
Mon, 28 SepTimes shown AEST
IRE 0vs ROM 0 01:45Wemb
Wed, 30 SepTimes shown AEST
TGA 0vs NAM 0 01:45Sand
Fri, 02 OctTimes shown AEST
WAL 0vs FJI 0 01:45MilS
FRA 0vs CAN 0 05:00stadium:mk
Sat, 03 OctTimes shown AEST
NZL 0vs GEO 0 05:00MilS
SAM 0vs JPN 0 23:30stadium:mk
Sun, 04 OctTimes shown AEST
SAF 0vs SCO 0 01:45St James' Park
ENG 0vs AUS 0 06:00Twic
Mon, 05 OctTimes shown AEDT
ARG 0vs TGA 0 00:30KPS
IRE 0vs ITA 0 02:45Olym
Wed, 07 OctTimes shown AEDT
CAN 0vs ROM 0 02:45KPS
FJI 0vs URU 0 06:00stadium:mk
Thu, 08 OctTimes shown AEDT
SAF 0vs USA 0 02:45Olym
NAM 0vs GEO 0 06:00Sand
Sat, 10 OctTimes shown AEDT
NZL 0vs TGA 0 06:00St James' Park
Sun, 11 OctTimes shown AEDT
SAM 0vs SCO 0 00:30St James' Park
AUS 0vs WAL 0 02:45Twic
ENG 0vs URU 0 06:00Manch
ARG 0vs NAM 0 22:00KPS
Mon, 12 OctTimes shown AEDT
ITA 0vs ROM 0 00:30Sand
FRA 0vs IRE 0 02:45MilS
USA 0vs JPN 0 06:00Kholm
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Sun, 18 OctTimes shown AEDT
WinB 0vs RUpA 0 02:00Twic
WinC 0vs RUpD 0 06:00MilS
WinD 0vs RUpC 0 23:00MilS
Mon, 19 OctTimes shown AEDT
WinA 0vs RUpB 0 02:00Twic
Sun, 25 OctTimes shown AEDT
WQF1 0vs WQF2 0 02:00Twic
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WQF3 0vs WQF4 0 03:00Twic
Sat, 31 OctTimes shown AEDT
LSF1 0vs LSF2 0 07:00Olym
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WSF1 0vs WSF2 0 03:00Twic
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France 0 0 0 0 0 0
New Zealand 0 0 0 0 0 0
Canada 0 0 0 0 0 0
Tonga 0 0 0 0 0 0
Japan 0 0 0 0 0 0
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Overall standings
Team P W L D +/- Pts
Romania 0 0 0 0 0 0
Argentina 0 0 0 0 0 0
England 0 0 0 0 0 0
Georgia 0 0 0 0 0 0
Scotland 0 0 0 0 0 0
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Rugby World Cup 2015
Overall standings
Team P W L D +/- Pts
Australia 0 0 0 0 0 0
USA 0 0 0 0 0 0
Italy 0 0 0 0 0 0
Ireland 0 0 0 0 0 0
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Rugby World Cup 2015
Overall standings
Team P W L D +/- Pts
Fiji 0 0 0 0 0 0
Samoa 0 0 0 0 0 0
Namibia 0 0 0 0 0 0
South Africa 0 0 0 0 0 0
Wales 0 0 0 0 0 0
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