Christian Lealiifano close to deal, but should Brumbies target Quade?

The ACT Brumbies hope to finalise a deal as early as next week to keep Christian Lealiifano in Canberra and the club has set its sights on adding back-line X-factor to the roster for a Super Rugby revival next year.

But it's unlikely Wallabies discard Quade Cooper will feature in the plans for the future unless the enigmatic playmaker back flips on his decision to remain in Queensland's club rugby competition.

Should Quade Cooper join the ACT Brumbies next year?

Should Quade Cooper join the ACT Brumbies next year?

Brumbies coach Dan McKellar has a handful of roster spots to fill for next season as the club prepares to reduce the squad size from 39 to 36.

Canterbury Crusaders back-rower Pete Samu is the only confirmed recruit, but it's understood the Brumbies are on the verge of adding at least two backs and upgrading several rising stars.

Hooker Connal McInerney is likely to secure his first full-time contract after taking his opportunities and Wallabies under-20s prop Tom Ross is expected to be added to the wider training group.

Veterans Lealiifano and Ben Alexander are yet to sign new contracts and are locked in talks with McKellar about their respective playing futures.

Lealiifano, who was diagnosed with leukaemia two years ago, is close to agreeing to a contract extension to play one more season in Super Rugby.

The 132-game playmaker is considered a key cog in the Brumbies' hopes of building on an end-of-year turnaround when the season begins next year. The core of the squad will stick together, but at least 10 players are leaving Canberra.

The Brumbies will upgrade academy players and could add another proven Super Rugby winger as early as this week.

"Talks are well underway. We're well aware we've got to add some players to our group to get the full squad and to go forward next year," McKellar said.

Christian Lealiifano is yet to make a decision on his playing future.

Christian Lealiifano is yet to make a decision on his playing future.

"From a coaching point of view, we have to make sure we're adding the right type of players who will allow us to improve."

Cooper was viewed as a recruitment option earlier this year and McKellar had preliminary discussions with the 70-Test Wallaby, who has been exiled from the Queensland Reds squad.

Cooper has been playing amateur rugby, but earning an exorbitant Australian rugby and Queensland salary.

The 30-year-old will need to find a new Super Rugby home if he wants to be any hope of being added to Australia's World Cup squad next year.

The Brumbies appear to be the best option given the Reds don't want him, the NSW Waratahs have Bernard Foley and the Melbourne Rebels have recruited Matt Toomua.

The Brumbies haven't completely shut the door on Cooper moving to Canberra, but the club isn't willing to be a part of a drawn-out saga about his playing future.

Cooper would fit into the style of rugby the Brumbies are trying to play and give them depth in the inside backs to work with Lealiifano, Wharenui Hawera, Jordan Jackson-Hope and Mack Hansen.

The Brumbies found an attacking spark late in their Super Rugby campaign, and co-captain Sam Carter was confident that would continue into the 2019 season.

Players will also have the added incentive of playing for Wallabies World Cup call ups next year.

"We've got to have a good, solid review of the season and working out what was good and what were the negatives," Carter said.

"Putting too much pressure on ourselves definitely didn't work. We were worried about the result early in the season and we just didn't play, we tensed up.

"This year some young guys showed they can cope at this level and they got more experience at this level. That's something we need to build on. We've got some stability next year, but we are losing some key players as well.

"We've had players move on over the past couple of years and we've always rebounded and rebuilt ourselves in a new way, so that will be no different next year.

"I hope [Lealiifano] is back out there again next year because we've seen what he can do when he's fit and healthy."

DEPARTING PLAYERS: Kyle Godwin, Isi Naisarani, Richie Arnold, Nic Mayhew, Andrew Smith, Lolo Fakaosilea, James Dargaville, Mees Erasmus, Faalelei Sione, Michael Oakman-Hunt.

YET TO RE-SIGN: Christian Lealiifano, Ben Alexander, Ben Hyne, James Verity-Am, Connal McInerney, Robbie Abel.


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