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Lealiifano joins leaders in a team with winning mentality

Date

Lee Gaskin

Christian Lealiifano.

Christian Lealiifano. Photo: Karleen Minney

Two words sum up Jake White's lofty expectations for the ACT Brumbies - to win.

After unveiling a new-look leadership group on Thursday, most notably featuring Wallabies skipper David Pocock and rising star Christian Lealiifano as two of the club's three vice-captains, White has the Super Rugby championship firmly in his sights ahead of his second season in charge of the Canberra franchise.

''I want to win every single game,'' the South African World Cup-winning coach declared. ''I think that's changed to where we were last year.

''The bottom line is, we want to win every single time we run out now, I say that because I know the players and I know the combinations we have, I know the work ethic, I know the effort that's been put in in the off-season. I believe in my heart if we do what we're supposed to do, we can win.''

The Brumbies don't intend to fly under the radar any more after getting pipped at the post last year in search of their first finals appearance since 2004.

They were on track to breaking their drought until losing to the lowly Auckland Blues in the last round. Installing Lealiifano into a senior leadership role is part of the two-time title holder's plan to return to the top.

Retaining Ben Mowen as captain was an easy decision given the former NSW Waratah's fantastic debut season in the position.

And while marquee recruit Pocock, and veteran international Stephen Moore, the most capped Australian hooker, were straight-forward choices for the leadership group, Lealiifano's selection ahead of Wallabies regular Pat McCabe was somewhat of a surprise.

It is a sign of the 25-year-old playmaker's standing within the Brumbies and his enormous influence on the team that he has been elevated to the vice-captaincy.

Lealiifano is coming off a breakout season with the Brumbies, alternating between inside centre and flyhalf and rocketing into Wallabies calculations.

Only a badly dislocated ankle halted those chances, but he is on track to lead the Brumbies' backline for the season-opener with the Queensland Reds at Canberra Stadium on February 16.

With McCabe set to miss the first few rounds with a fractured neck, Lealiifano is likely to resume in the No. 12 jersey with Matt Toomua given first crack at flyhalf.

Lealiifano joked his appointment to the vice-captaincy was overdue given the large number of Polynesian players at the club.

''We were sort of campaigning to get someone of Polynesian descent on the leadership board,'' Lealiifano said.

''It was quite surprising to be recognised as someone who could lead and be another voice around the group.

''I just like to play it low key and do my role behind the scenes.''

White said Lealiifano's influence on the Polynesian players played a part in his decision.

''One thing we shouldn't underplay is that Christian is a Polynesian boy and we have a massive amount of Polynesian kids in this team,'' White said. ''To have him as a role model and a mentor for the young Polynesian boys is massive for us as a group.

''If you think about what he went through last year with not only his injury, but how he went from 12 to 10 and a lot of speculation about how good he was going to be, he showed a lot.

''It's a just reward for him. He's shown a bit of leadership nous in the way he's handled himself and the way he's adjusted to the team.''

Rugby Internationals 2014

Round 1
Sat, 07 JunTimes shown AEST
SAM 18 vs TGA 18 Report Stats
FJI 25 vs ITA 14 Report Stats
NZL 20 vs ENG 15 Report Stats
AUS 50 vs FRA 23 Report Stats
Sun, 08 JunTimes shown AEST
RSA 47 vs WXV 13 Report Stats
ARG 17 vs IRE 29 Report Stats
USA 6 vs SCO 24 Report Stats
CAN 25 vs JPN 34 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 2
Sat, 14 JunTimes shown AEST
SAM 15 vs ITA Report Stats
FJI 45 vs TGA 17 Report Stats
NZL 28 vs ENG 27 Report Stats
AUS 6 vs FRA Report Stats
Sun, 15 JunTimes shown AEST
RSA 38 vs WAL 16 Report Stats
CAN 17 vs SCO 19 Report Stats
ARG 17 vs IRE 23 Report Stats
USA 29 vs JPN 37 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 3
Sat, 21 JunTimes shown AEST
ARG 19 vs SCO 21 Report Stats
FJI 13 vs SAM 18 Report Stats
JPN 26 vs ITA 23 Report Stats
AUS 39 vs FRA 13 Stats
NZL 36 vs ENG 13 Report Stats
Sun, 22 JunTimes shown AEST
RSA 31 vs WAL 30 Report Stats
USA 38 vs CAN 35 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 4
Sun, 29 JunTimes shown AEST
RSA 55 vs SCO 6 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 5
Sun, 02 NovTimes shown AEDT
BAR 36 vs AUS 40 Report Stats
USA 6 vs NZL 74 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 6
Sun, 09 NovTimes shown AEDT
ITA 24 vs SAM 13 Report Stats
ENG 21 vs NZL 24 Report Stats
WAL 28 vs AUS 33 Report Stats
FRA 40 vs FJI 14 Report Stats
IRE 29 vs RSA 15 Report Stats
SCO 41 vs ARG 31 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 7
Sun, 16 NovTimes shown AEDT
ITA 18 vs ARG 20 Report Stats
ENG 28 vs RSA 31 Report Stats
WAL 17 vs FJI 13 Report Stats
SCO 16 vs NZL 24 Report Stats
FRA 29 vs AUS 26 Report Stats
Mon, 17 NovTimes shown AEDT
IRE 49 vs GEO 7 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 8
Sun, 23 NovTimes shown AEDT
ITA 6 vs RSA 22 Report Stats
SCO 37 vs TGA 12 Report Stats
IRE 26 vs AUS 23 Report Stats
WAL 16 vs NZL 34 Report Stats
ENG 28 vs SAM 9 Report Stats
FRA 13 vs ARG 18 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 9
Sun, 30 NovTimes shown AEDT
ENG vs AUS 01:30Twic
WAL vs RSA 01:30MilS
View All Fixtures
 
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