3 February 2023

Pre-season trial in Griffith more than a game for Brumbies' hopefuls

| Tim Gavel
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Brumbies at Canberra Stadium, season 2022

Brumbies at the Canberra Stadium during season 2022. Photo: Jennifer Andrew.

Under normal circumstances, trials provide an opportunity to give every available player game time in the lead-up to the start of the season.

But for the Brumbies, this Saturday’s trial against the Waratahs in Griffith has taken on added importance.

With the departure of fullback Tom Banks and inside centre Irae Simone, a number of players will be vying to fill those positions come the start of the Super Rugby Pacific season on 24 February.

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In many ways, there is a sense of excitement with the vacancies providing an opportunity for players who have been waiting for this moment.

A case in point is Declan Meredith, who came down from Cairns to force his way into the Brumbies.

Playing fullback for Wests in the John I Dent Cup, Meredith has impressed. His determination eventually led to a Brumbies contract.

This Saturday, he gets a chance at fullback.

By the time the season proper gets underway, Meredith will be contending with Jesse Mogg and Tom Wright for the number 15 jersey. This is why this Saturday’s trial against the Waratahs, and the following weekend against the Rebels in Wagga Wagga, have taken on added importance.

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One such player vying for the position is Chris Feauai-Sautia. As a teenager with the Queensland Reds, he burst onto the scene and played for the Wallabies but was hampered by injury.

The Reds cut him from the team at the end of the 2020 season after 81 games for Queensland.

Chris has since found a home with the Brumbies. Potentially he could be a game-changer at inside centre, but much will depend on injuries and his competition for the position – Ollie Sapsford and Tamati Tua.

Tua played two games for the Auckland Blues last season while Sapsford had limited opportunities off the bench for the Brumbies in 2022.

Other questions around the Brumbies include the mindset of Noah Lolesio given his treatment by the Wallaby selectors through the Spring Tour.

The recruitment of former Rebels fly-half Jack Debreczeni is interesting. He should be given an opportunity as Lolesio will not be playing in the first trial.

Steve Larkham at a media conference

Steve Larkham has a lot on his plate – hopefully the trials will make the decisions easier. Photo: Tim Gavel.

With new coach Steve Larkham, there is an atmosphere of change surrounding the Brumbies. That change will become even more evident with new faces in key positions.

The Brumbies take on the NSW Waratahs on 4 February at Exies Sports Ground, Griffith, and the Melbourne Rebels on 11 February at East Wagga Wagga. Tickets through Eventbrite.

Original Article published by Tim Gavel on Riotact.

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