Two years ago a brain tumour threatened the career of Julian Huxley, but the former Australia utility back will make a remarkable return to action for the CA Brumbies in their Super 14 clash with the Waikato Chiefs in Canberra on Friday. Huxley, 30, has been named on the Brumbies replacements bench as one of three new players in the squad.
In 2008, Huxley's career was put on hold after routine scans following a head clash revealed a brain tumour. He only received clearance to play three weeks ago and has put in two quality perform- ances for the Brumbies reserves. Andy Friend, the Brumbies coach, said Huxley's return is part of a big night for the club. "This is a great occasion for Julian, his family and friends and the Brumbies and rugby community," he said. "For those out at Canberra Stadium on Friday night, they'll witness a great spectacle in more ways than one.
"You'll get to see Hux's return after a courageous fightback while the Chiefs are one of the most attacking sides in the competition. "They will attack you from anywhere on the park. We got a taste of what to expect against the Blues last weekend and we need to lift that intensity again and realise that if we turn off for five or 10 minutes we will get punished." While Huxley's inclusion is a major boost, the Brumbies will be without stalwart George Smith, who will miss his first game in almost five years through injury.
Michael Hooper, 18, will make his debut at open side flanker while fellow 18-year-old back-row forward, Colby Faingaa, is in line to make his debut off the bench. Stirling Mortlock, the centre, returns from his one-week lay-off due to neck soreness, which has Friend confident of an improved showing following last weekend's 39-34 loss to the Auckland Blues in New Zealand. Matt Giteau, the Wallaby fly-half, switches to inside centre in a backline reshuffle
The Chiefs have named a surprise inclusion of their own with Sione Lauaki, the former All Black, set to play just a few days after pleading guilty to an assault charge at a District Court in Hamilton. Lauaki, 28, who played 17 Tests for New Zealand from 2005-2008, replaces Colin Bourke at the back of the pack as the Chiefs seek to move into play-off contention. His guilty plea related to an incident in Hamilton and he will return to court in May.
The Chiefs, who have won three out of their five games, could leapfrog the Brumbies and the New South Wales Waratahs into the top four with a win in Canberra. "We are aware the Brumbies have been playing well and they enjoyed a good start to their season," Ian Foster, the Chiefs coach, said. "They also have a good record at Canberra Stadium. However, that makes this game that much more exciting and challenging for us."
Full-back Riaan Viljoen was among three players recalled by Naka Drotske, the Free State Cheetahs' coach for Friday's match against the Queensland Reds. Viljoen, who was suspended for last weekend's 21-8 loss to the Cape Town Stormers after missing training, replaces the injured Hennie Daniller, who has a kidney injury. The winger Danwel Demas and Ashley Johnson, the No 8, were also named in the starting XV in place of Lionel Mapoe and Frans Viljoen.
* With agencies