Brumbies back-row Ita Vaea has been named in the Canberra-based outfit's starting XV for Friday's game against the Chiefs in New Plymouth.
A syndesmosis injury to David Pocock forced the change, with Vaea featuring at number and in the run-on side for the first time in two years. The last time Vaea started for the Brumbies was under Jake White in 2012 and the Tongan powerhouse hasn’t featured at the back of the scrum since 2011.
Vaea has battled a serious heart condition for more than two years, with last week’s 30 minute effort against the Reds his first Super Rugby time since coming from the bench to beat the Waratahs in Sydney back in round 15 of 2012.
Vaea’s elevation to the starting side brings means Jarrad Butler moves to open-side flanker and Sean Doyle comes onto the bench. The selection marks Doyle’s first crack at a matchday 23 in Australia having plied his trade with Ulster in Ireland for the last three years.
The rest of the team remains unchanged after last week’s decimation of the Reds in Canberra.
Head coach Stephen Larkham said his side would face a much tougher opposition this week in New Plymouth.
“It’s a pleasure to welcome Ita Vaea back to the starting side for the first time in two years," he tolf the Brumbies' official website.
"In my time in rugby this has been one of the great fight-back stories, right up there with Julian Huxley, and I’m pleased for Ita that he’s been able to make a full return to the starting side.
“There’s no doubt we’ll miss David Pocock, but as the Brumbies Player’s Player in 2014 Jarrad Butler was outstanding and I’m excited to see him back in the number seven jersey.
"It’s also a big occasion for Sean Doyle who’s likely to get a bit of time for us off the bench to make his Brumbies debut.
“We’ve had some epic battles with the Chiefs over the last couple of years and this rivalry has started to develop into a similar contest as what we faced with the Crusaders during my playing days.
“Every time we play the Chiefs it’s an exciting build up. The last two years we’ve seen them in a Final, a Qualifier and then again on Anzac Day so there is certainly a sense of occasion around this game.
“It’s been tough for the travelling team to get an edge in these fixtures, we haven’t beaten the Chiefs in New Zealand since 2007. But both the 2012 and 2013 games went right to the wire and really could have gone our way.”
With Stephen Moore again starting from the bench, the Captaincy falls to scrumhalf Nic White.
Since 2005 the home side has only gone down twice in this fixture, the Chiefs in 2007 and the Brumbies in 2008.
The Chiefs are expecting their big guns, Aaron Cruden, Brodie Retallick, Ben Tameifuna and Liam Messam back to face the Brumbies after all four were rested last weekend against the Blues.
The match will be the first time the Brumbies have travelled to New Plymouth, having previously played this fixture in Hamilton, Mt Maunganui, Rotorua and Whangarei.
The Brumbies have named four players with links to Waikato, with former Hamilton Boys student Vaea joining ITM Cup players Henry Speight, Jordan Smiler and Christian Lealiifano in New Plymouth.
Brumbies: 15 Robbie Coleman, 14 Joe Tomane, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Christian Lealiifano, 11 Henry Speight, 10 Matt Toomua, 9 Nic White (c), 8 Ita Vaea, 7 Jarrad Butler, 6 Scott Fardy, 5 Sam Carter, 4 Rory Arnold, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Josh Mann-Rea, 1 Scott Sio.
Replacements: 16 Stephen Moore 17 JP Smith 18 Ruan Smith 19 Jordan Smiler 20 Sean Doyle 21 Michael Dowsett 22 James Dargaville 23 Lausii Taliauli.
Date: Friday, February 20
Venue: Yarrow Stadium, New Plymouth
Kickoff: 19:35 local (06:35 GMT)
Referee: Steve Walsh (Australia)
Assistant Referees: Shane McDermott (New Zealand), Paul Williams (New Zealand)
TMO: Glen Newman (New Zealand)