Brumbies coach Stephen Larkham reckons new recruit Tomas Cubelli has the best halfback’s running game the Super Rugby team has ever seen.
The Argentina half will have his first start for the Brumbies in Saturday’s pre-season trial against the NSW Waratahs in Wagga Wagga, alongside Wallabies playmaker Matt Toomua.
Larkham named a 31-man squad for the clash, excluding World Cup stars Stephen Moore, David Pocock, Scott Fardy, Scott Sio, Christian Lealiifano and Henry Speight – who is on Sevens duty.
But they won’t be short of internationals, with Ben Alexander, Sam Carter, Tevita Kuridrani, Joe Tomane and Cubelli all to feature.
“Everyone’s who is fit and available to play, barring those Wallaby players, will get some time,” Larkham said. “We’re looking at least 20 minutes for everyone.”
Larkham said Cubelli, who has 45 Test caps, had quickly adjusted to his new teammates and surroundings.
“He was a little bit overawed when he first got here,” Larkham said.
“But he’s improved every session he’s been out there to the point where today, he was one of our standouts on the field.”
Cubelli was signed on a two-year deal to replace Wallaby Nic White and has spent some time working with retired Wallabies captain George Gregan, a Brumbies legend.
It’s hoped the 26-year-old will play in both trials and be ready for round one.
“I think people will be pleasantly surprised,” Larkham said.
“His running game is far superior to anyone that we’ve seen at the Brumbies. Ever.
“He’s very clever around the rucks and he’s got that little bit of Argentinian flair where he only needs a sniff of a space and he can get through it – and he’s got all the skills to back it up.”
Cubelli said he was excited for the clash, which he admits won’t be just a trial.
“It’s going to be a hard game,” he said.
“I’ve settled in, training hard, running a lot, so I want to go onto the field and have fun.”
The Puma thanked his new teammates for helping him fit in.
Larkham is undecided on his starting 9-10-12 combination, but is aiming to field his strongest side at next week’s trial against the Queensland Reds.
“What’s important out of this game is not necessarily the result, it’s how we play and the intent that we turn up with,” he said.
ACT Brumbies: Aidan Toua, Lausii Taliauli, Andrew Smith, Jordan Jackson-Hope, Nigel Ah Wong, Matt Toomua, Tomas Cubelli, Ita Vaea, Jarrad Butler, Jordan Smiler, Sam Carter, Tom Staniforth, Ben Alexander, Josh Mann-area, Allan Alaalatoa. Reserves: Albert Anae, Robbie Abel, Leslie Leuluai’ali’i-Makin, Ruan Smith, Rory Arnold, Blake Enever, Ben Hyne, Michael Wells, Joe Powell, Michael Dowsett, Nick Jooste, Joe Tomane, Jake Rakic, Tevita Kuridrani, James Dargaville, Isaac Thompson.