Wallabies scrumhalf Nic White could give the ACT Brumbies an unexpected Super Rugby AU boost this year after officially ending his five-year stint in Europe.
The coronavirus shutdown and the Australian rugby relaunch has opened the door for White to make an earlier than expected return to the Brumbies almost 12 months after reigniting his Wallabies career.
White was initially ruled out of all Brumbies games this year due to his commitments to English club Exeter, where he was expected to finish the season and juggle Wallabies duties.
But White finished his time at the Chiefs on Monday and will likely be eligible for Brumbies selection if required in the new domestic competition.
Whether he is required is another matter, with the Brumbies already boasting Joe Powell, Ryan Lonergan, Issak Fines and Australian schoolboy Lachlan Albert in the scrumhalf ranks.
Powell is off-contract at the end of this year and has been mentioned as a possible United States rugby recruit, but he is yet to make a decision about his future.
White, who became a father for the second time a month ago, signed with the Brumbies last year to become eligible to play for the Wallabies at the World Cup.
He returned to England to complete his time at Exeter, but the virus-forced hiatus of competitions around the world led to an early exit. He won't be available to play for the Brumbies in round one on July 4 given travel restrictions and quarantine period, but he could be available at some point in November.
MORE CANBERRA SPORT
"Just as we got back into it unfortunately was my last week at the club," White said on Instagram.
"I know these words won't do me justice in trying to describe how truly thankful I am [to Exeter] but here goes. The last three years has been nothing short of amazing. It's been a special time for not only me but my family as well.
"We can't thank the club, coaches, players, supporters and people of Exeter enough for the love we have felt here. I am proud to be an Exeter Chief and it's something I will always cherish. While I am disappointed I can't finish the way I wanted, I am confident the boys will finish what we started."
White left Canberra at the end of the 2015 season to move to France before linking with the Chiefs two years later. He has played 26 times for the Wallabies and will add more experience to the Brumbies' back line, which was firing before Super Rugby was paused in March.
His exact arrival date in the capital is still to be determined, but another former star made a guest appearance this week to give the Brumbies a boost for their new kick-off date.
Christian Lealiifano is training with the Brumbies as an extra body and to stay fit during his time away from rugby in Japan.
The former skipper's presence is a massive opportunity for the club's young playmakers, giving Noah Lolesio, Reesjan Pasitoa and Bayley Kuenzle a front-row seat in the flyhalf class.
It was thought the Brumbies may have a playmaker hole this year following the end of Lealiifano's 150-game career, but Lolesio took the reins and starred in the first six games of his career.
"The first training session I went up to him and said: "well, I guess I had a good stint. I'll go back to the bench," Lolesio laughed.
"It feels awesome, it just feels normal. [Lealiifano's] there to fill in numbers but after today's session I went up to him and asked him what he thought. He had some really wise advice.
"He's always been a good role model for me and it's awesome he can be here to stay fit before he heads off again. You can just tell he's been around a while and he's wise ... it's awesome to have him helping guys like me."
Lealiifano has been back in Canberra since April after his first season with NTT Communications in the Japan Top League. After spending the past two months training with his wife and sister, he called Brumbies coach Dan McKellar to offer his services as an extra body at training.
"It's been unreal to be back, I couldn't come to Canberra and not visit," Lealiifano said.
"I've been following the boys for the whole season so far and just being back I thought I'd give [coach Dan McKellar] a call to see how they were going or if I could help out in any way. Whether it was with the young 10s or filling in. It was nice he invited me down."