Rugby Union

Michael Dowsett ready to shed understudy tag in battle for Brumbies' No. 9

All the hype has been about Argentinian recruit Tomas Cubelli, but Michael Dowsett says he's ready to break the understudy shackles and challenge his Test teammate for the starting scrumhalf spot.

The ACT Brumbies will start their Super Rugby season against the Wellington Hurricanes on Friday night, with Cubelli in the box seat to win his first cap for the club in the opening round.

Brumbies scrumhalf Michael Dowsett wants to shed the 'understudy' tag this season.
Brumbies scrumhalf Michael Dowsett wants to shed the 'understudy' tag this season. Photo: Graham Tidy

But after two years waiting patiently behind Nic White, Dowsett has vowed to throw everything into his bid for more game time and chase his No.9 jersey goal.

The speedy scrumhalf with a bullet pass has recovered from a major shoulder operation in the off-season and is prepared to put his body on the line in the battle for a starting XV berth.

"The relationship I had with Whitey – he was a Wallaby and vice-captain at the Brumbies – he taught me a lot and I feel like now I'm in a place where 'understudy' isn't a tag I want," Dowsett said.

"I want to start [games], that's my goal from an individual stand point this year. But as a team we're very focused and I think people will be pleasantly surprised with the way we play footy this year.

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"At training we've [Dowsett and Cubelli] been really competitive with each other. He's obviously showed what a classy player he is and that just pushes me to get better. If I'm playing well, that will keep him working hard as well."

Brumbies coach Stephen Larkham will settle on his round 1 line-up in the coming days, with only a handful of spots up for grabs in the starting XV.

Scrumhalf Michael Dowsett of the ACT Brumbies fires the ball out of the ruck.
Scrumhalf Michael Dowsett of the ACT Brumbies fires the ball out of the ruck. Photo: Matt Bedford

The Brumbies boast 13 Wallabies in their squad and Argentina's World Cup scrumhalf Cubelli.

With hooker Josh Mann-Rea set to start on the bench, it's likely there will be just three non-internationals in the Brumbies' starting side – fullback, No.8 and one of the lock positions.

However, the plethora of international stars hasn't deterred the rest of the squad as they try to put pressure on Wallabies and earn more game time.

Rake Robbie Abel wants to compete with Mann-Rea and Wallabies skipper Stephen Moore, as well as stepping up to show he can be a long-term hooker option when Moore departs at the end of the year.

Abel's rugby journey has taken him to the streets of Western Australia on a Mormon mission, to the Western Force and now back to Canberra where he has rediscovered his love of rugby.

"There are a lot of blokes with a lot of caps and experience ... but it's good to just keep pushing them and hopefully they can feel me coming and opportunities come," Abel said.

"You don't know when that comes, but you've got to be ready to take it. I really want to be able to push my claims to stay here long term. There's an opportunity to do that."

Dowsett and Cubelli will also compete with Canberra junior Joe Powell for the scrumhalf duties.

Dowsett is back to full fitness after a shoulder problem threatened to delay his year, suffering a setback while training for the National Rugby Championship.

But Brumbies defence coach Peter Ryan made sure he got rid of any comeback nerves in some brutal tackling sessions through the pre-season.

"I was doing the most passive of tackling drills in Sydney and my shoulder just slipped out ... maybe it was a bit of a blessing that it happened when it did," Dowsett said.

"I didn't miss any [Brumbies games] and it allowed me to sit back and mentally refresh a bit. I got to watch the boys have Wallabies and NRC success, that's driving me and I want some success myself.

"I was keen to get back into everything as quick as I could, and Ryno was there yelling at me so I didn't have any choice but to fly in. That's given me a bit of confidence."

SUPER RUGBY ROUND ONE

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