Brumbies top prop backs Lealiifano for captaincy

Wallabies top prop Allan Alaalatoa backs Christian Lealiifano to slot straight back into the ACT Brumbies co-captaincy with Sam Carter this season after beating leukaemia.

But even if Brumbies coach Dan McKellar decides not to burden Lealiifano with the responsibility, Alaalatoa says the players will still see the playmaker in that light.

Lealiifano will finish his loan spell with Irish club Ulster, where he wore the captain's armband on occasions, this weekend after missing most of last season due to his cancer battle.

The 30-year-old shared the Brumbies' captaincy duties with Carter last year and Alaalatoa expected the same set up for the 2018 Super Rugby season.

While the Brumbies have plenty of youth in their side, they've also got some terrific leaders - even with veteran Scott Fardy departing for Leinster.

Not only do they have Carter and Lealiifano, but former Wallabies and Western Force captain David Pocock will return to the Canberra club after a year's sabbatical.

But Alaalatoa, who vice-captained the Wallabies against the Barbarians last year, backed the Carter-Lealiifano combination.

"They haven't named it yet, but if I was to have a bet I'd bet that those two would be captains," he said.

Lealiifano's made a stunning return to elite rugby, returning in the Brumbies' Super Rugby qualifying final against the Wellington Hurricanes and then starring on his five-month loan spell with Ulster.

McKellar said he was in the mix for the captaincy, with a final decision expected in the coming weeks.

But whether he's wearing the captain's armband or not, Alaalalatoa said the playing group would still look up to the flyhalf as if he was.

While he'd loved the leadership experience with the Wallabies, Alaalatoa thought with those experienced leaders he wouldn't be needed in the Brumbies leadership group.

"He'll probably still be the captain or more importantly the boys will see him as our captain, that's probably the main thing," he said.

"As long as the boys see him and Carter as our captain then nothing will really change if he has the captain next to his name or not.

"In terms of having that pressure on him they might not give him that title, but the boys will still respect him and give him that high authority of being that top leader of the team."

Fellow-front-rower Scott Sio said the new coaching regime with McKellar at the helm and the return of forwards guru Laurie Fisher would help mould the forward pack into one of the best in Super Rugby.

But he said McKellar, who was a prop with the Queensland Reds in his playing days and the former Brumbies forwards coach, wasn't just focusing on the pack.

He's also working with backs coach Peter Hewat to learn how the backs "think".

"You want to be known as the most dominant packs. Looking back over history everyone knows the teams that have won it have had dominant packs up front and backs that can light it up out wide," Sio said.

"One of the great things in Dan's progression has been he's trying to get a bit more influence across all of our game.

"He's been sitting in with the backs a lot and learning the ins and outs, and just the way that they think when they're on the field in certain situations as well."

This story Brumbies top prop backs Lealiifano for captaincy first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.