Picking a starting Brumbies team for round one of Super Rugby Pacific
Despite losing a host of players to rival clubs, they have been able to maintain an incredible level of continuity, retaining 26 players from the 2021 squad.
There are some exciting additions to the squad for this season, headlined by prodigal son Jesse Mogg, former Wallabies flyer Chris Feauai-Sautia, Australian-qualified centre Ollie Sapsford, local back row product Ed Kennedy and former Reds gun Hudson Creighton.
Before the season kicks off, we have selected what we believe will be the starting lineup for the Brumbies come round one of Super Rugby Pacific.
While pre-season form and fitness may still yet play a part in who is picked come the beginning of the campaign, these selections are largely based on the availability and squad status of players at the time of writing.
1. James Slipper
The most-capped test prop in Wallabies history, Slipper has been coming into vintage form since joining the Brumbies. He recently re-signed with the team until the end of 2023 as he pushes his case for a World Cup berth. The Brumbies will put his experience and versatility to good use and are in the envious position of rotating him with fellow Wallabies prop Scott Sio.
2. Folau Fainga’a
The Brumbies have the luxury of picking between three Wallabies-capped hookers in their squad, but Fainga’a is considered the incumbent and should start most games. When he gets his discipline in check, Fainga’a has the mobility and ball-playing skills to add extra dynamism to the forward pack. He is also the general of the Brumbies lineout and was at one point the leading try-scorer in Super Rugby AU last year thanks to the Brumbies’ ability to convert on mauls 5 metres out from opposition trylines.
3. Allan Alaalatoa
The beating heart of the Brumbies, skipper Allan Alaalatoa will lead from the front – literally. His ability at scrum time and his work rate should set the platform for the Canberra side’s season. The 28-year old tighthead prop has become a talismanic figure for the side, and if he can stay healthy will be hugely influential in their fortunes this year.
4. Darcy Swain
Coming off a Wallabies debut, Swain is set for a big year in Super Rugby Pacific this year. The Brumbies expect him to take on extra responsibilities for the 2022 season, and his big frame will feature regularly in the starting line-up. His physical presence will help disrupt the opposition’s maul set-ups and his aggression should ruffle a few players’ feathers.
5. Nick Frost
The 22-year old will share his time with experienced lock Caderyn Neville. Signed from the Crusaders academy in 2020, Frost has made a number of appearances in Brumbies colours off the bench. This season he has put on a ton of muscle and is pushing for a consistent starting spot. If he has a good year, he could be in line for higher honours in a gold jersey.
6. Rob Valetini
A stand-out for the Brumbies last season, Valetini keeps going from strength-to-strength every year. He can play as No 8, but the Brumbies will utilise most at blindside in combination with fellow Wallabies loose forward Pete Samu. His strong carries and heavy defence have become a trademark of his game.
7. Jahrome Brown
A mainstay in the back-row during 2021 before a knee injury ruled him out for the rest of the season, New Zealand-born Brown has quickly established himself at the Brumbies since signing in 2019. He will be hoping to lock down that openside spot through his physical play.
8. Pete Samu
Samu had an up-and-down season in 2021. After playing a huge part in the Brumbies 2020 Super Rugby AU title, he struggled to recapture his form the following year and was rotated out of the side at certain points. At his best, Samu is a dynamic, ball-playing back rower capable of game-changing moments. If the Brumbies can find the right balance in the back row, Samu will be a crucial piece of that puzzle.
9. Nic White
The experience of White will be invaluable to the Brumbies backline as he will be in charge of leading around the forward pack and getting under the skin of the opposition. White’s decision-making and kicking game will free-up Noah Lolesio to control the game from the pocket and unleash the Brumbies’ strike weapons.
10. Noah Lolesio
22-year old flyhalf Lolesio will once again take the reins of the Brumbies in 2022. The mercurial pivot has proven himself at Super Rugby level and has genuine superstar qualities. He has focused on up-skilling in the off-season, and if the Brumbies want to find themselves in the final come June, Lolesio needs to prove he can mix with it with the best playmakers New Zealand has to offer.
11. Tom Wright
While the Brumbies have a host of outside backs signed up for 2022, Wright offers that X-factor that could light up the competition. The former schoolboy flyhalf has found himself a home on the wing and has still retained all his playmaking skills. It makes him a genuine threat for opposition. His finishing ability in the corner has bagged the Brumbies some decisive tries over the years.
12. Irae Simone
The 26-year old inside centre was one of the best Brumbies backs in 2021, and his combination of hard ball-carrying and deft kicking ability has proven hard for opposition backs to contain. After missing selection for the Wallabies, Simone will have a point to prove this season and wants to establish himself as one of Australia’s best playmakers.
13. Len Ikitau
The combative outside centre had a breakout year in a Brumbies jersey after forming a powerful centre pairing with Simone in Super Rugby last season. It culminated in a call up for the Wallabies, and he shined on the international stage. Ikitau will look to bring that form and experience from his year in gold back to the Brumbies for their 2022 campaign. One to watch.
14. Chris Feauai-Sautia
A signing that has flown under the radar, this is a good piece of business from the Brumbies. After scoring 22 tries in 81 Super Rugby appearances for the Queensland Reds, Chris Feauai-Sautia’s career has been hampered by injuries. He offers a point of difference as a big, powerful player who is equally at home at centre or on the wing. If the Brumbies can get the best out of him, Feauai-Sautia could be pushing for a return to the Wallabies.
15. Tom Banks
Tom Banks has the potential to deliver box-office performances. A guaranteed pick for the Brumbies in recent years, the fullback will now be fighting off competition from fan favourite Jesse Mogg, who has returned to the nation’s capital this season. His elusive running and his ability to peel off a massive punt to set the Brumbies up for an attack off their line-out means it Banks’ jersey to lose for the season opener.
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