Niggling injuries and squad changes have created an air of mystery around the ACT Brumbies for the rugby relaunch next weekend with spots still up for grabs a week before kick-off.
Tom Banks is racing the clock to be fit as he continues his comeback from a foot injury, while Scott Sio, Allan Alaalatoa and Folau Faingaa are all expected to be cleared after overcoming their problems.
Mack Hansen could emerge as a fullback option, Tom Wright, Solomone Kata and Andy Muirhead are battling for the wing spots and the back-row is giving Brumbies coaches a major headache.
Locks Nick Frost and Caderyn Neville have already been ruled out, leaving the second row thin on availability. But assistant coach Peter Hewat expects to have almost everyone available next week to start what says will be a Super Rugby race.
"You want guys pushing each other and making each other better. It will probably be more important for this competition," Hewat said.
"It's going to be quite intense. Short and sharp ... it's pretty much a bit of a race. We'd like to give everyone a go who has performed well at training. We've got to be able to give guys opportunity and reward form from the first seven weeks [of the season]. We need a whole squad to win games and a competition. Mack Hansen is putting his hand up. I think we're ready to go."
The Brumbies went head to head at an opposed training session on Friday, referee Rueben Keane called in to help the players adjust to new law variations.
It was the closest thing to a game the players had experienced since March 15, when the Brumbies beat the NSW Waratahs in the last game before the coronavirus-forced shutdown.
The next challenge will be against the Melbourne Rebels on July 4, when five Australian teams begin a new competition to run over the next 12 weeks.
"We're really excited. That scrimmage [on Friday] was the end of pre-season 2.0. Everyone came through well, everyone's looking forward to round one," Tom Cusack said.
"It was very intense. You don't want to go out and smash your teammates, but you have to if you want to put your best foot forward for selection. That's what the Brumbies hold in high regard, the ability to contest and train to get the best out of the 23 picked on game day."
SUPER RUGBY AU ROUND ONE
July 4: ACT Brumbies v Melbourne Rebels at Canberra Stadium, 7.15pm
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