Lolesio to lead Brumbies in injury return

The Brumbies have rolled the dice by naming Noah Lolesio at five-eighth for the Super Rugby AU grand final against Queensland, despite not playing since July.

DAN MCKELLAR, head coach of the Brumbies, looks on ahead of the Super Rugby match between the Highlanders and the Brumbies at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin, New Zealand.
DAN MCKELLAR, head coach of the Brumbies, looks on ahead of the Super Rugby match between the Highlanders and the Brumbies at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin, New Zealand. Picture: Dianne Manson/Getty Images

The Brumbies don't see a risk in playing Noah Lolesio and are counting on the rewards the young playmaker can bring with the Super Rugby AU title up for grabs against Queensland.

Lolesio hasn't played since injuring his hamstring two months ago but coach Dan McKellar says the 20-year-old won't be fazed by the occasion as the Brumbies look to win their first championship since 2004 on Saturday in Canberra.

"Noah's got a whole lot of confidence in directing us around the park," McKellar said on Thursday.

"He's a confident kid who backs his ability and that's what we want him to do on Saturday."

McKellar said Lolesio, who was included in the Wallabies squad last Sunday, offered the Brumbies a "genuine threat in attack".

"He sees space at times well ahead of others and that's why we've given him the nod.

"He gives an extra dimension to our attack - he's got good acceleration and he's a tough little bugger as well."

Joe Powell will surprisingly start at halfback ahead of Wallabies No.9 Nic White, with McKellar noting there were a couple of reasons behind his thinking.

With White's mid-season arrival from Europe, Powell had earned the right, but more importantly it was his history playing alongside Lolesio, whom White has never partnered.

"Going into a grand final I wanted that combination and that's why I went the way we did," McKellar said.

Their last game in Canberra was decided by a successful Brumbies penalty kick after the siren so McKellar was looking some punch and direction from White at the end.

"We've picked a strong group to finish the game," he said.

"Grand finals are generally tight affairs so we're pretty comfortable in the guys to come off the bench and finish the job."

Queensland skipper Liam Wright says his team will test out Lolesio after so long out of the game.

"We'll try and ramp up the pressure there," Wright said of the No.10.

"Nothing really targeted; just send the centres through there so it won't change much from our end but it will be good to test them out a bit.

"He's just a good target and one our centres and backrowers will get up for."

McKellar's team got a taste of the Reds' improved attack in a 26-7 loss in the final round, albeit in a dead rubber with the Canberra side's place in the grand final already confirmed.

Brumbies: Tom Banks, Andy Muirhead, Tevita Kuridrani, Irae Simone, Tom Wright, Noah Lolesio, Joe Powell, Pete Samu, Will Miller, Lachlan McCaffrey, Cadeyrn Neville, Murray Douglas, Allan Alaalatoa (capt), Folau Fainga'a, Scott Sio, Res: Connal McInerney, James Slipper, Tom Ross, Nick Frost, Rob Valetini, Nic White, Bayley Kuenzle, Solomone Kata.