Christian Lealiifano will make his long-awaited return for the Brumbies after being named in the 23 for Friday’s clash with the Hurricanes.
Lealiifano, who has been out of Super Rugby since being diagnosed with leukaemia 10 months ago, had originally made his return in Brumbies colours during the team’s Austbrokers Cup win over the Asia Pacific Dragons in Singapore in June and is on the bench for the knockout tie.
Head Coach Stephen Larkham has reverted to most of the side that played against the Reds in Brisbane a fortnight ago with two enforced changes from that starting XV. Season ending injuries to Kyle Godwin at inside centre and Aidan Toua on the left wing, mean a start for James Dargaville out wide and Andrew Smith.
Smith showed some good form in the away game against the Chiefs last weekend and will partner Tevita Kuridrani with the back-line offering plenty of pace and movement. Outside backs Tom Banks and Henry Speight are deadly strike-runners, of which the Hurricanes will be all too aware.
Up front, Sam Carter is back to lead the side in a pack that contains six Wallaby internationals with only dynamic back-rowers Chris Alcock and Jordan Smiler having not pulled on the Gold jersey. Carter is partnered by Rory Arnold in the second row with Scott Fardy named alongside Alcock and Smiler in the back-row.
The forward battle is likely to be key in the contest and the front row clash should set the scene. With Scott Sio, Josh Mann-Rea and Allan Alaalatoa, the Brumbies have strength, speed and great scrummaging technique.
On the bench, alongside Lealiifano, there is a spot for utility back Jordan Jackson-Hope, who made his first start of the season at full-back in Hamilton. Larkham has opted for a 5-3 split with Tomas Cubelli back to the replacements bench and youngster Joe Powell continuing in the half-back role he has grown into throughout the campaign.
Brumbies: 15 Tom Banks, 14 Henry Speight, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Andrew Smith, 11 James Dargaville, 10 Wharenui Hawera, 9 Joe Powell, 8 Jordan Smiler, 7 Chris Alcock, 6 Scott Fardy, 5 Sam Carter (c), 4 Rory Arnold, 3 Allan Alaalatoa, 2 Josh Mann-Rea, 1 Scott Sio
Replacements: 16 Robbie Abel, 17 Ben Alexander, 18 Leslie Leulua’iali’i-Makin, 19 Blake Enever, 20 Jarrad Butler, 21 Tomas Cubelli, 22 Jordan Jackson-Hope, 23 Christian Lealiifano
Date: Friday, July 21
Venue: GIO Stadium, Canberra
Kick-off: 19:35 local (09:35 GMT)
Referee: Glen Jackson
Assistant Referees: Nic Berry, Will Houston
TMO: Ian Smith