Rugby Union


Lealiifano tips Auelua for big season

IF SUPER Rugby teams were worried about Fotu Auelua's big hitting last season, they should be downright scared next year.

ACT Brumbies fly-half Christian Lealiifano said there were two factors that would make Auelua a scary proposition for opposing teams next season - he's had a full pre-season under his belt and new collision coach Brian Smith has started fine-tuning the human wrecking-ball's tackling technique.

Auelua joined the Brumbies in February from Japanese club NTT Communications, but brought a knee injury with him that limited his pre-season even further.

But when he was fit, he unleashed his 1.89-metre, 115-kilogram physique to devastating effect - most notably in Johannesburg, where he left several Lions wishing he'd stayed in Japan.

Lealiifano predicted a fit Auelua would be even better after a full pre-season.

''His game in general is going to be quite scary and I'm looking forward to seeing him roll out next year with a solid fitness base and just being around the group longer,'' he said of the loose forward.


Lealiifano returned to full training ''three or four'' weeks ago as he continued his comeback from a gruesome dislocated and fractured ankle he suffered against the NSW Waratahs in May.

He also had shoulder surgery in the off-season.

But the Brumbies No.10 said he was ''back on track'' and raring to go for next year.

''Everything's holding up really well,'' Lealiifano said. ''I'm trying to get back to better than what I was before and everything's on track.

''There's still a little bit more to do just after the New Year, but [I'm] pretty happy with where I'm at at the moment.''

He said Auelua wasn't the only Brumbies player benefiting from Smith's expertise.

The former NRL coach has been working with the squad on its tackling technique for two weeks.

Originally, the Brumbies tried to sign Newcastle hooker Danny Buderus for the role, but the ARL Commission quashed the idea within hours of its announcement.

Lealiifano said Smith had been studying the new code and bouncing ideas off players and coaches about what would and wouldn't work in Super Rugby.

''The boys have really bought in to what he's doing and ripped in, and it's only going to make us better as a side,'' he said.

''We're already seeing great improvements in the boys' tackling techniques.''

While Smith has been helping Lealiifano with his tackling, Damien Hill has been helping with his kicking.

It's an area the fly-half said he needed to work on as his ankle healed.

He said he had been ''frustrated'' at times with having to take it easy, so as not to do any damage during his rehabilitation.

And with Brumbies coach Jake White's willingness to bring in experts from other football codes, Lealiifano did not rule out working with someone from the AFL in the future.

The All Blacks have already tapped into that expertise, with former Sydney Swans player Michael Byrne employed as their kicking coach.

''We've got Damien Hill, who's done some work with the Wests Tigers, he comes in once a week and does some kicking with us, and he's been phenomenal with my kicking last season,'' he said.

''If we could tap into some AFL guys that would be great, but we've got Damien Hill at the moment and he's doing quite well.''