Lachlan McCaffrey will return to the starting team after being rotated out of the squad for a three-point loss to Melbourne last week and coach Dan McKellar is considering more changes to spark his side into form.
Leuluaialii-Makin has started in just one game for the Brumbies since making his debut four years ago, but former skipper Sam Carter says the 112 kilogram cannonball is ready for the challenge.
“Les has been a bench player for us for many years now. He’s a great scrummager, hits low and gets around the park pretty will for his size,” Carter said.
“I’ve got no doubt he’s going to step up. Tommy Ross is a local product [and] a big unit, he’ll step up as well.
“We’ve been building a squad mentality here, preparing guys for if someone is rested or injured. You look at the positive side, it’s an opportunity for those guys to step up and show what they’re made of. When they get that opportunity, they’ve got to be ready to go.”
Pocock’s absence will rob Australian rugby of the always anticipated clash against Wallabies skipper Michael Hooper, with former sevens star Cusack filling the sizeable No. 7 duties for the Brumbies.
The Waratahs have won two of their three games this year, but the Brumbies have spluttered their way through the opening rounds and have just one win from four matches.
It gives the rivalry battle added significance, with another loss putting the Brumbies of falling too far behind the leaders in the Australian conference.
The Brumbies haven’t used the same starting XV in any game this season and McKellar will make more changes this week, although forced via Pocock (calf) and Alaalatoa (wrist) injuries.
McCaffrey was rested from the match against Melbourne last week as McKellar tries to manage workloads and reward form.
“The coaches are lucky, I think they’ve got different players in every position to represent the Brumbies well,” McCaffrey said.
“It’s never nice having the week off, but I think it’s important in a long season. Both for myself to come into this week feeling really good, but also the back-row mix as a squad. It’s healthy to have that competition.
“The advantage of this year is we’ve got players who can step up … I feel great this week. There’s a method to what Dan [Laurie Fisher and Peter Hewat] are doing.”
The Brumbies will have just two full-team training sessions before playing against the Waratahs after the club’s Wallabies contingent returned to Canberra on Tuesday morning.
SUPER RUGBY ROUND FIVE
Friday: ACT Brumbies v NSW Waratahs at Canberra Stadium, 7.45pm. Tickets available from Ticketek.
Chris Dutton is the sports editor at The Canberra Times.