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Wallabies star returns to training following lengthy injury layoff

By Alex McLeod

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Wallabies star Tom Banks is back in training with the Brumbies ahead of next year’s inaugural Super Rugby Pacific campaign following an injury layoff.

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Banks missed Australia’s end-of-year tour of Japan and the United Kingdom after fracturing his arm during his side’s second Rugby Championship victory over the Springboks in September.

Prior to his injury, the 27-year-old had been a key member of Dave Rennie’s national squad, having started in every test he was available for against France, the All Blacks and South Africa.

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During his absence in Australia’s remaining tests of the year against Los Pumas, Japan, Scotland, England and Wales, Reece Hodge, Andrew Kellaway and Kurtley Beale shared the No 15 jersey.

However, as the Wallabies ended their season with their first winless tour of Europe in almost half a century, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Banks reinstated at fullback immediately next year.

Before then, though, he has to complete his injury comeback via the Brumbies, the side of which he has begun pre-season training with in preparation for the revamped version of Super Rugby in 2022.

Speaking to media on Monday, Banks said his injury recovery has progressed well as he moves from fitness-based training to contact sessions.

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“It’s alright. I had surgery on it. All the reports are going really well. Starting contact progression now, so by the start of next year, it will be all good and ready to go,” he said.

“I’ve been doing a fair bit of fitness, but it’s good to be back touching the ball and seeing all the boys again.”

When asked about the performance of the Wallabies while he remained at home to rehabilitate his arm, the 19-test international refused to critique his teammates, instead outlining how their winless end to the year will benefit them moving forward.

Banks made particular note of how the results will impact his Brumbies teammates Len Ikitau, a rookie for the Wallabies this year, and Allan Alaalatoa, an international veteran and captain of the Canberra-based franchise.

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“I think for the boys like Lenny [Len Ikitau], who really stepped up and had a really good end to the year, I think the confidence he’ll bring, and obviously we’ve got boys like Allan [Alaalatoa] and all those boys who will come back and add a lot to the group,” Banks said.

“In saying that, the new boys have really stepped up, they’ve laid a really good platform. It’s going to be good when all the boys come back together.”

Neither Ikitau, Alaalatoa or any of the recent Wallabies squad members have returned to training with their Super Rugby Pacific teams since the end of their northern hemisphere tour.

In their places, each of the five Australian franchises have been filled with youngsters, rookies and non-internationals looking to get themselves on the front foot ahead of the new campaign with a full pre-season under their belts.

By virtue of missing Australia’s end-of-year tour, Banks has joined that cohort at the Brumbies and has been impressed by what he’s seen from his teammates thus far.

“I think the best thing about it is everyone’s putting their hand up, wanting to be selected, training really hard. It’s a really competitive environment, which has been really good to see.”

Among those to have caught the eye is new recruit Cam Clark, the former Waratahs wing and Australian sevens star who has returned to Super Rugby following a season-long spell in Major League Rugby with the San Diego Legion.

The 28-year-old speedster said he was enjoying his time in the Australian capital, where he has been based for the past month, and said the presence of Banks, and other Wallabies, has been beneficial to all those involved in the Brumbies’ pre-season.

“There’s some great leaders already in this group. Obviously the Wallabies guys are still to come back as well, so Banksy’s definitely putting his hand up and stepping into the leadership role,” Clark told reporters on Monday.

“Guys like Scott Sio are floating around as well, so there’s plenty of guys who offer a lot in training and I can definitely pick little things up from a bunch of guys here.”

Comparing the Brumbies to his experiences at the Waratahs and San Diego Legion, Clark said he is excited by what his “world-class” new side has to offer in Super Rugby Pacific.

“Obviously I had a little time away from Super Rugby in the last year, playing over in America, so coming in, you can tell why it’s been a successful programme in the past,” he said.

“The way the programme is put together, how close everyone is here in Canberra, it’s really good to see and it’s a world-class programme, so I’m really happy to be stepping into this.

“It’s great to have the opportunity, being away from Australia, to be back in Australia and playing on home turf. It’s really exciting, just the challenge of playing some awesome teams.

“I watched Super Rugby AU and the Trans-Tasman stuff, getting the chance to challenge yourself against the Kiwi teams and, obviously, there’s a couple of new teams that will be pretty exciting and add a bit of flair to the competition as well.”

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