18 August 2020

White eyes Brumbies return after five-year absence

| Henry Jacobs
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Nic White

Nic White could return at halfback agains the Waratahs. Photos: Brumbies Rugby.

Halfback Nic White is a strong chance of playing his first match for the Brumbies in over five years when they take on their arch-rivals, the NSW Waratahs, at Canberra Stadium on Saturday night.

The 30-year-old was initially expected to return to Canberra from England for the 2021 Super Rugby season on a two-year deal, but he cut short his stint in England when the coronavirus pandemic hit.

“I’ve been flogged a bit, but I’m feeling pretty good, so hopefully in the not too distant future I’ll be able to put my hand up,” White said.

“I’m happy to do whatever job they give me – whatever the team needs me to do right now in order to get the best results.”

The last of White’s 67 Brumbies appearances was a 2015 semi-final loss to the Hurricanes. He then spent five years developing his game in the notoriously gruelling Northern Hemisphere leagues.

A two-year stint with French Top 14 side Montpellier was followed by three successful seasons with Exeter where he started in the last two English Premiership finals.

July’s return to the Brumbies camp was far less glamorous for White with coach Dan McKellar using him to fill gaps in the backline during training.

Halfback is arguably the deepest position in the squad with Wallaby Joe Powell and rookie Issak Fines both showing strong form in recent weeks. Youngster Ryan Lonergan returned from a five-month injury layoff in the Brumbies’ last outing, and White is well aware the number nine jersey will be hard to lockdown.

“For me, it’s been like a mini pre-season… I’ve been doing what I have to for the team and make sure they’re prepped,” he said. “I don’t know if I’ll do another week [training] on the wing and help the boys prepare for the Waratahs or if I’ll get the nod.”

Nic White training

Halfback Nic White trains with the Brumbies. Photo: Brumbies Rugby.

The Brumbies remain on top of the Super Rugby AU ladder despite a bye on the weekend and will be looking to bounce back from their first loss of the season against the Rebels a fortnight ago. NSW have turned their season around in recent weeks with two straight wins putting them in finals contention.

“The Waratahs have only two cracks to get on the board heading into finals now,” White said. “They’ll definitely be throwing everything but the kitchen sink at these last two games.

“They’re playing really good footy at the moment and are looking really confident. It’s taken them a few weeks in the previous competition and this one to get comfortable … so they’re starting to click now.”

A win on Saturday night would likely secure a finals berth for the Brumbies with the Reds, Rebels at Waratahs yet to have their second byes.

Alexander makes surprise return for Uni-Norths fourth grade

Ben Alexander, the most capped Brumby in history, made a surprise return to ACT club rugby with Uni-Norths on the weekend.

The prop came off the bench in the second half of the Owls’ fourth-grade clash with Tuggeranong Vikings – scoring to tries in a 29-26 loss.

Alexander is expected to transition to the first-grade squad when he returns to full fitness. The 72-cap Wallaby was forced to retire from professional rugby in 2018 after the game took its toll on his body.

Brumbies v NSW Waratahs – Saturday, 22 August, 7:15 pm, at GIO Stadium.

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