Three of the five ACT Brumbies represented in the Rugby Union Players Association Team of the Year are leaving the club, further showcasing the long rebuilding phase ahead of them.
In a RUPA People’s Choice poll released on Tuesday, the Brumbies were strongly favoured by the public in the season they won the Super Rugby Australian Conference.
Departing players Stephen Moore (Queensland Reds), Matt Toomua (Leicester) and David Pocock (sabbatical) were joined by fellow Wallabies Scott Fardy and Rory Arnold in the squad.
With the three selected stars amongst the nine leaving the ACT outfit next season, it adds to the fact the Brumbies are about to embark on one of their most difficult stages in the club’s career.
The nine players leaving the nation’s capital will leave sizeable holes in their squad but they’ve already signed four replacements from outside the club.
The Brumbies have signed Saia Faingaa (Queensland), Chris Alcock (Western Force), Lolo Fakaosilea (Queensland) and Robert Valetini (Melbourne) to fill the gaps and will look to build their new squad into one capable of defending their Australian Conference title.
Tevita Kuridrani and Christian Lealiifano were snubbed by Israel Folau and Bernard Foley respectively in the Team of the Year and Argentinian Tomas Cubelli was ineligble for selection at the scrum half position that was filled by Nick Phipps.
The Brumbies and Waratahs each had five representatives in the Team of the Year, with the Queensland Reds having two players and the Melbourne Rebels and Western Force having one each.
The rugby fans who selected the team have taken issue with Wallabies coach Michael Cheika over two key positions and opted for uncapped emerging stars Sefanaia Naivalu and Jed Holloway.
Fijian-born Melbourne Rebels winger Naivalu and NSW Waratahs No.8 Holloway were the only two non-internationals in the team.
At 195cm, 23-year-old Holloway potentially gives Cheika an option of a taller No.8 than either Pocock (183 cms) or McMahon (186 cms), who have occupied that spot in recent times.
Holloway, who made the People’s Choice team ahead of established Wallaby Ben McCalman, enjoyed a breakout Super Rugby season which included a hat-trick of tries off the bench against the Highlanders, until he suffered a competition-ending shoulder injury.
He could be back in time for part of the upcoming NRC and might be a bolter for the Wallabies spring tour, along with 24-year-old Naivalu, who will then be eligible to represent Australia.
RUPA’s 2015 Newcomer of the Year, Naivalu scored six tries in as many games in the second half of the Super season.
One of the most interesting selections was at right lock, where one-cap Wallaby Adam Coleman got the nod ahead of several other more experienced internationals.
Coleman, who made his debut off the bench in the final Test of the England series in June, polled more votes than 62-cap veteran Rob Simmons, Will Skelton (15 Tests) and Sam Carter (13 Tests).
Rugby Union Players Association People’s Choice Team:
Dane Haylett-Petty (Western Force), Sefanaia Naivalu (Melbourne Rebels), Israel Folau (NSW Waratahs), Matt Toomua (Brumbies), Rob Horne (NSW Waratahs), Bernard Foley (NSW Waratahs), Nick Phipps (NSW Waratahs), Jed Holloway (NSW Waratahs), David Pocock (Brumbies), Scott Fardy (Brumbies), Adam Coleman (Western Force), Rory Arnold (Brumbies), Greg Holmes (Queensland Reds), Stephen Moore (Brumbies), James Slipper (Queensland Reds).