Vodacom Super 14

Mortlock in doubt for Brumbies

2010-03-16 13:11
Stirling Mortlock (File)
Canberra - Brumby Julian Huxley will not be rushed back into the Super 14 despite injury and form casting doubt over veteran Stirling Mortlock's selection.

The Brumbies will play the Blues in New Zealand on Friday with coach Andy Friend to name his travelling party on Wednesday.

Huxley was keen to return to the top level as soon as possible after he made a successful comeback to rugby for the Brumby Runners on Sunday, more than two years after scans revealed he had a brain tumour.

But even with a neck and shoulder injury keeping Mortlock out of training on Monday, Friend said it was highly unlikely Huxley would be recalled this week.

"[Huxley] looked like he hadn't spent a day off the park," Friend said. "But we'll probably look to give him one more game this weekend for the Runners.

"With another performance like that and some more match fitness there's no reason why he wouldn't be [pushing for a spot in the game-day 22]."

Mortlock's injury meant he did not return to the field in the second half of the Brumbies' 24-22 victory over the Durban Sharks last Saturday night. If he fails to train on Wednesday, Tyrone Smith is the most likely candidate to take his No 13 jumper. However, the possibility of the former Wallabies skipper signing with new Super rugby franchise, the Melbourne Rebels, will be the biggest talking point this week.

The ARU ban on the Rebels signing players from rival Australian clubs ended yesterday.

Mortlock will almost certainly leave the Brumbies at the end of the season to pursue a long-term contract in Melbourne or opportunities overseas.

His manager, Nick Johnston, met with ARU officials on Monday to discuss the possibility of topping up a potential Rebels contract.

An ARU top-up could convince Mortlock to move to Victoria and he could make a decision as early as this week.

"I think it won't be too long at all [before it's all sorted out], who knows, could be a week, could be a few days, could be a couple of weeks," Mortlock said.

"From my perspective there's no distraction whatsoever, there's always a period of time as a professional rugby player that you are negotiating and involved with talks here and abroad, that's just the way it is.

"It's the first time in my career where I've genuinely sat down and thought long and hard about going overseas or not too sure about what I'm going to do.

"But at this stage, Melbourne seems like a great opportunity, a fantastic opportunity and one that I thought I would never really be looking into."

The Rebels are expected to unveil their first Australian recruits in the coming days.

Former Wallabies hooker and Waratah Adam Freier and Reds prop Laurie Weeks are expected to join the new franchise.

Brumbies backs Christian Lealiifano and Matt Toomua have also been linked to possible moves to Melbourne, although Brumbies officials have previously expressed confidence both will stay.

The list of players being targeted by the Rebels and supercoach Rod Macqueen is likely to grow with Melbourne free to negotiate with all Australian players.

But Friend was adamant it would not distract his players as they attempted to collect the team's fourth successive win on Friday.

"We've been having ongoing contract discussions with players and nothing has really changed," Friend said. "[The Rebels] will obviously be trying to up the ante on [signing players], but it's business as normal for us. I'm not concerned about that at all."

Meanwhile, the Brumbies are hoping to finalise a deal with Julian Salvi by the end of the week.

Salvi's club Bath recruited England Test flanker Lewis Moody at the weekend, which could suggest Salvi has told the club he will return to Australia.


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