Clyde Rathbone scores against the Western Force in Darwin.THE ACT Brumbies have erased the ”injury demons” and insist they are mentally tougher as they prepare to launch their Super Rugby season in 13 days.
The Brumbies secured a narrow win over the Western Force in Darwin on Friday night – their only pre-season trial against a Super Rugby opponent.
But after 20 off-season operations to the squad’s most influential players, coach Jake White said his team can put its injury woes in the past and focus on the opening round of the season on February 16.
Christian Lealiifano, Matt Toomua, Nic White, Clyde Rathbone and Henry Speight are just a few of the players who made successful comebacks in the tight pre-season victory.
They all got through unscathed with Toomua and Rathbone – who has returned to Super Rugby after retiring in 2009 and battling depression – both scoring tries.
”We had 20 operations last year and all of those boys have come through their first hit-out good and fresh,” White said.
”One can always be critical and I would have liked to finish more [scoring] opportunities we had against the Force. But psychologically that game is a massive boost for the guys coming back from injuries and they can just focus on moving forward and preparing for the game against the [Queensland] Reds in round one.”
The Brumbies coaching staff flew to Toowoomba on Saturday to watch the Reds play a trial match against the Auckland Blues.
White used his full-strength squad against the Force for the first half, including new recruit David Pocock. Toomua and Lealiifano were back as the flyhalf-inside centre combination after both suffered season-ending injuries last year.
The Brumbies will play one more warm-up match against an ACT XV side on Friday at Viking Park.
Almost all of White’s squad is available for selection with only Pat McCabe (neck) and Josh Mann-Rea (knee) out of contention for the opening few rounds.
Joseph Tomane has recovered from a hamstring injury and Colby Faingaa will be given another chance to impress after being eased back into action.
For Toomua and Lealiifano, the match against the Force gave them a chance to get rid of any pre-season nerves.
”I think this first game was a big one, there was such a long wait [to play again] that I was keen to get out there and just finally do something,” Toomua said.
”I don’t know if you call them demons, but just to get a few things out of your head and get going again, it’s a confidence booster for next week and ultimately the Reds.”
AT A GLANCE
ACT BRUMBIES 20 (Matt Toomua, Clyde Rathbone tries; Christian Lealiifano 2 pens, 2 cons) bt WESTERN FORCE 18 (Hugh McMeniman, Junior Rasolea tries; Sias Ebersohn 2 pens, con).
The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.