RISING STAR: Tomas Cubelli in action against Georgia in last year’s Rugby World Cup.
RISING STAR: Tomas Cubelli in action against Georgia in last year’s Rugby World Cup. Stu Forstergetty IMAGES

Larkham has no doubt Tomas has the X-factor

 After knocking on the door for the past three seasons, the Brumbies believe they have found the secret weapon that can provide the ultimate success in the 2016 Super Rugby season.

The ACT franchise had its campaign ended in the semi-finals during the past two seasons, after being runners-up to the Chiefs in Hamilton in 2013.

And while coach Stephen Larkham has international stars such as David Pocock, Stephen Moore, Scott Fardy, Scott Sio, Christian Lealiifano and Tevita Kuridrani in the line-up, it's Argentinean scrumhalf Tomas Cubelli who many good judges believe could provide the x-factor this season.

The 26-year-old played 45 Tests for the Pumas before joining the Brumbies to replace Nic White, who has moved to French club Montpellier.

Cubelli has drawn high praise from Larkham, who described the Argentinean as the best running scrumhalf in Brumbies history.

If he can justify that tag, the Brumbies certainly have the talent in most other positions to mount a serious challenge for the title, beginning with last season's beaten finalists, the Hurricanes, in Canberra tonight.

Their back row - Pocock, Fardy and Tongan powerhouse Ita Vaea - is as good as any in the competition.

One of the few question marks is in the front row where emerging prop Allan Alaalatoa gets his chance to lock down a spot after being a surprise selection at loosehead against Wellington.

The Hurricanes also have plenty of talent, including All Blacks TJ Perenara, Beauden Barrett, Julian Savea, Cory Jane and Nehe Milner-Skudder. After being named in the side on Thursday, captain and hooker Dane Coles pulled out yesterday with a calf problem.

In a clash full of great match-ups, one of the best will be the battle between Pocock and 22-year-old excitement machine Ardie Savea.

The match in Canberra will be the second of the season, with the competition to kick off earlier in Auckland where the Blues will host last year's champions, the Highlanders.

Last year's finishing positions aren't expected to be any indication of the result, however, with new coach Tana Umaga generating plenty of enthusiasm and excitement.

Former rugby league coach Graham Lowe has been helping Umaga on an unofficial basis, and said he had a great feeling 2016 could see something special from the Auckland outfit.

"He's got a really exciting and positive view about how the game should be played," Lowe said.

"It's fantastic watching him come along."



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