Rugby Union


Brumbies centre Christian Lealiifano to start against Chiefs as Sam Carter makes comeback

The ACT Brumbies will inject Wallabies centre Christian Lealiifano into the starting side for the first time this year as they attempt to erase some of the pain of their Super Rugby grand final defeat.

Lealiifano is set to reclaim the No.12 jersey, forcing hard-nosed centre Pat McCabe to the bench for the Anzac Day grand final rematch against the Waikato Chiefs at Canberra Stadium.

Lock Sam Carter will make his comeback from a knee injury and veteran flanker Tom McVerry is set to earn his first Brumbies cap from the bench.

The Brumbies are locked in negotiations with several high-profile stars, including Lealiifano, as they attempt to keep their squad together to chase Super Rugby championships.

It is understood the club is on the verge of bolstering its playing stocks for next year with rising star Nigel Ah Wong in contention to join the Brumbies for the 2015 campaign.

Ah Wong, 23, was part of the Queensland Reds' extended player squad last year and also played in Japan.


The Brumbies' main focus is securing their talented roster and keeping Wallabies representatives out of the clutches of cashed-up European teams.

Ah Wong is expected to arrive in Canberra in the coming weeks to start training with the Tuggeranong Vikings in a bid to impress Brumbies coaches.

Lealiifano had ankle surgery at the end of the Wallabies spring tour last year and has been linked to a move to France, while the Melbourne Rebels are also keen to recruit the star playmaker.

The Brumbies are juggling back-line depth, with McCabe being forced into an impact role from the bench despite his outstanding form at inside centre.

The selection dilemma is a headache for coach Stephen Larkham. But after being over-run by the Chiefs in the final last year, Larkham says the Brumbies are better placed to challenge the two-time defending champions.

"I think Super Rugby is the strongest it's ever been ... I think we're in a slightly better position than we were last year," Larkham said. "I think the Chiefs are still the pinnacle in Super Rugby in terms of finishing a game off well and that's what we're striving to get better at."

Lock Carter is making his comeback from knee ligament damage, replacing rookie Tom Staniforth.

Carter feared his season was over when he injured his knee against the Auckland Blues earlier this month.

The 24-year-old has not beaten the Chiefs in his three-year Super Rugby career and admitted it was still hard to swallow the grand final loss after the Brumbies led the game for 65 minutes.

"The Chiefs are the benchmark in Super Rugby ... we need to get amongst it and get in their faces," Carter said. "The Chiefs can come back from anywhere ... any time you lose a grand final is pretty devastating, especially when you're winning with 15 minutes to go."

Meanwhile, Tuggeranong and Queanbeyan will start John I Dent Cup action at Viking Park on Thursday night. Ah Wong is expected to join the Vikings in the coming weeks and join Canberra's National Rugby Championship campaign.