Australia skipper Stirling Mortlock will be rushed straight into the Brumbies starting line-up against Waikato Chiefs despite not having played a minute of rugby for more than four months.
Jim Tucker writes in The Courier Mail that Brumbies coach Laurie Fisher put his blockbusting centre’s importance in perspective in just a few words as his ninth-placed side faces a pivotal clash to stay relevant in this season’s Super 14 race.
“We can’t afford not to start Stirlo,” Fisher said. “He’ll be caught short on match fitness but he’s been running pretty hard for six weeks.”
Mortlock has a history of hitting fresh starts with a bang after long breaks forced by surgery. His shoulder reconstruction after Australia’s early exit at last year’s World Cup has cost him six Super 14 games but he is back in time for the Brumbies’ run at the semi-finals.
Four of those games will be at hostile away venues but the Brumbies game against the in-form Chiefs is all Mortlock has in his sights.
“I’m very confident that after all the rehabilitation the shoulder will be right to go,” Mortlock said.
“I’ll be short of match fitness so I’m realistic about sucking in some big ones as the game goes on but running out on to a home stadium is a good way back in.
“A lot has changed. The last time I played for the Brumbies, George Gregan and Bernie Larkham were still on board.
“Importantly, the young guys have stepped up.”
“Hopefully, I can add some stability and focus in the backline.”
Tyrone Smith will be Mortlock’s centre partner. Fellow back Adam Ashley-Cooper (ankle) is also hopeful of a comeback against the Chiefs who have grabbed five-point results with a rush of tries against the Bulls and Otago Highlanders over the past fortnight.
The Brumbies have a 3-3 win-loss record, not a bad return considering their injury woes. Mortlock’s return comes at the perfect time for them to kick on if they are good enough.Tweet