In a move that will surprise many, it appears as though the Brumbies have pulled out of the race to sign up-and-coming Wallaby fullback, James O’Connor. Whether this is just a bargaining play by Brumbies chief Andrew Fagan remains to be seen, however Fagan has indicated the Brumbies are no longer in the hunt to sign JO’C.
This statement was certainly backed by Coach Andy Friend, who spoke to G&GR before he flew to Samoa to lead a series of training sessions with the Samoan RWC train-on squad. Friend seemed to be more than comfortable with the options available to the Brumbies at fullback, without the signature of O’Connor.
“We’ve got the current Wallaby fullback (AAC) so you’d suggest that we have it covered, we’ve also got young Pat McCabe, who we signed this year out of the Academy – he’s a tremendous footballer”
When asked about the chances of Matt Toomua shifting to fullback, Friend seemed more intent on a different option and nominated Christian Lealiifano as a potential no. 15.
“Christian Lealiffano is a player that can play fullback. He’s got genuine speed, a great kicking game, he’s very sound underneath the highball, he’s a brave defender and can enter a backline and add penetration.”
“I think we’ve numerous options already in the fullback jersey, so it’s just a matter of who’s going to fit in where.”
An interesting point – with so much talent heading to Canberra, how is he going to fit them all in and manage what could potentially be some pretty bruised egos?
“There may well be some quality footballers that miss out on a starting jersey, but at some stage throughout the year they are all going to play a very important role. As I say to the players, though injuries or drop-off’s in form, rugby has a great way of presenting opportunities”
“It just a matter of managing the players expectations and managing their thought processes if they’re not included in the starting XV, that’s part of coaching, that’s part of management. We did it this year, and we’ll do it again next year”
As a coach, it’s a good problem to have I guess.