The ACT Brumbies have been dealt a cruel blow on the eve of their Super Rugby campaign, with tighthead prop Les Leulua'iali'i-Makin ruled out with a season-ending ankle injury.
The Brumbies confirmed on Sunday Leulua'iali'i-Makin ruptured his Achilles tendon while playing for Japanese club Kurita, leaving coach Dan McKellar to search for another replacement.
The 28-year-old prop was set to rejoin the club ahead of their season-opener against the Queensland Reds at Canberra Stadium on Friday night, but will instead undergo surgery on his ankle.
Number eight Lachlan McCaffrey and lock Cadeyrn Neville returned from their stints in Japan last week, but Leulua'iali'i-Makin's injury underlines the risk involved for players with off-season contracts.
Brumbies prop James Slipper wouldn't rule out future contract arrangements like this but highlights the increased possibility of sustaining an injury.
"I think there's a time and a place for these contracts and at the end of the day it keeps players in Australia as well," Slipper said.
"There's pros and cons for anything but I think there's always a risk of playing too much footy or getting injured. That's all part of rugby itself whether it's here or in Japan, these things happen."
MORE BRUMBIES NEWS
Slipper made a front-row switch to cover Leulua'iali'i-Makin at tighthead prop in their trial win over the Melbourne Rebels last week, despite spending most of his career in the No.1 jersey.
The move could also give the Brumbies a new way to use their trio of Wallabies bookends and Slipper is prepared to fill the position when needed.
"Firstly, Les has been a big part of our team and club for a fair few years, so to lose someone of his experience and spot is disappointing," Slipper said.
"Tighthead is one of the hardest positions on the field. We've got Allan [Alaalatoa] who is one of the best props in the country and I'll be covering him really, there's other players in the squad who can do that as well.
"We're not too worried about it, it's just something I have to deal with. I've done it earlier in my career but it's been a few years since I've been there, but I'll do what I have to do for the team.
"The more I play there, the better I'll get and it helps having good players around you.
"It offloads the pressure having guys like Scott Sio and Harry Lloyd on the loosehead side, it made playing tighthead easier.
"We're under no illusions it'll be hard and scrums are something we take pride in."
Junior Wallabies prop Bo Abra, who played in the Canberra Viking's National Rugby Championship campaign last year, could be called up for Super Rugby action.
The 20-year-old front rower has been training with the squad in Leulua'iali'i-Makin's absence and will continue to do so as McKellar searches for a replacement player.
"He's really impressed me, he's a great young lad," Slipper said.
"I think Bo is an example of hard work. He's come in here off his own back, worked really hard and essentially put us older blokes under a lot of pressure which is good to see.
"It's really nice to see him working hard and playing for an opportunity which I'm sure he will get."
SUPER RUGBY ROUND ONE
Friday: ACT Brumbies v Queensland Reds at Canberra Stadium, 7.15pm.