The Brumbies have signed Ben Hyne on an extended player squad deal. Photo: Jay CronanACT Brumbies coach Stephen Larkham has backed playmaker Christian Lealiifano to juggle Super Rugby, Wallabies and Japanese duties over the next six months after signing a deal to play for Suntory at the end of the year.

Lealiifano has taken up a flexible option in his contract to link with Japan giants Suntory in the Super Rugby off-season, but the Brumbies co-captain is set for extra Wallabies responsibilities after Kurtley Beale suffered a season-ending knee injury last week.

Larkham believes Lealiifano can use his stint in Japan to become a better player even if it means the 28-year-old plays almost two years of consecutive rugby without a break.

Lealiifano is the front-runner to fill the Wallabies’ inside centre spot for the three-Test series against England in June while Beale and Matt Toomua are out of action.

Larkham dismissed concerns of player burnout despite Lealiifano set for at least 20 months of non-stop rugby until the end of the 2017 Super Rugby campaign.

“Christian’s got a great opportunity with the Wallabies and that’s always been his goal,” Larkham said.

“He had this opportunity to sign a flexible deal to play in Japan in the off-season … the way things are panning out now is that he’s got a big role for the Wallabies.

“If he does get to Suntory, it’s a great opportunity for him over there to learn a few things and from everyone I’ve seen go overseas and come back, they come back as a better player.

“It is a lot of rugby, but sometimes for a player who’s been around a long time like Christian continually playing can be better than doing a pre-season.”

The Brumbies continued to build their roster for the future on Friday, unveiling trio Ben Hyne, Ryan Lonergan and Robert Valetini as new recruits on extended player squad deals.

Hyne has been training with the Brumbies all season after moving from Brisbane to Canberra to take a chance to impress Larkham.


Scrumhalf Lonergan is a Canberra junior, while the Brumbies have poached versatile back-rower Valetini from the Melbourne Rebels ranks.

Rookie flyhalf Jordan Jackson-Hope is also believed to be close to a new deal and Canberra Grammar graduate Tom Staniforth signed a two-year contract on Thursday.

“[Valetini] showed a lot of promise through the under-20s competition. He’s got a lot of potential as a blindside flanker or a No.8 but he’s pretty versatile,” Larkham said.

“You’re always trying to have that balance in your squad between young guys and senior players to keep generating a squad.

“Benny Hyne played a trial match for us in Wagga this year and from that everyone had a new respect and appreciation for what he can bring to the team.”

Larkham used the Brumbies’ bye week to finalise some contracts, but he will continue to delay his personal negotiations until closer to the end of the year.

Larkham’s contract expires at the end of the Super Rugby campaign, but he has already told Brumbies management he wants to stay in Canberra on a long-term deal.


May 28: ACT Brumbies v Japan Sunwolves at Canberra Stadium, 7.45pm. Tickets available from Ticketek.

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