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David Pocock back for Brumbies as coach makes changes for Lions

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David Pocock will return to the Brumbies' starting side on Sunday morning.

Photo: Dion Georgopoulos

The ACT Brumbies will throw David Pocock to the Lions in Johannesburg in his return from injury, giving coach Dan McKellar a chance to roll out his first-choice back row for the first time this year.

Pocock, Isi Naisarani and Kyle Godwin have been added to the Brumbies' starting XV for the clash against the Lions at Ellis Park on Sunday morning Australian time.

The return of Pocock (calf) and Naisarani (ankle) will give the Brumbies a massive boost week after their hopes of playing in the finals were dealt a near fatal blow last week.

The duo will team up with young gun Rob Valetini for the first time and signals the end of the back row headaches that have plagued McKellar this season.

Pocock has played just four games in his comeback season after a 12-month sabbatical, Valetini missed 10 weeks after injuring his knee and No. 8 Naisarani damaged ligaments in his ankle three weeks ago.

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McKellar had hoped the trio would develop combinations this year, but the horror run of injuries has prevented the three-prong attack from getting game time together.

"Poey is back from injury, as is Isi Naisarani, so they come in. Rob Valetini had a pretty good game last week in his second game back from injury. It's exciting to see those three finally get on the park together," McKellar said.

Brumbies skipper Sam Carter added: "It's massive to have [Pocock] back, he's world class.

"To have him coming back into your team with the leadership and experience he has, the boys will lift and everyone loves playing with him. I've got no doubt that will be any different this week."

The Brumbies are hoping to beat the Lions to celebrate a double milestone, with back-up prop Ben Alexander to play his 150th Super Rugby game and Tevita Kuridrani to reach the 100-game milestone.

Godwin is back in the Brumbies' starting side for the first time since round four after being dropped to the bench and playing club rugby in Canberra.

McKellar has recalled Ireland-bound inside centre Godwin to take the pressure of Christian Lealiifano and hopefully spark the Brumbies struggling attack.

Kyle Godwin will partner Christian Lealiifano in the Brumbies' playmaker roles.

Photo: Dion Georgopoulos

The Brumbies back line failed to land a blow last week, with forwards Tom Cusack, Faalelei Sione and Valetini scoring the team's tries.

Regular playmaker Wharenui Hawera has been left out of the game-day squad, paving the way for Lealiifano and Godwin to renew their combination after a two-month hiatus.

McKellar has also decided to add bulk to his bench, picking back-rowers Tom Cusack and Lachlan McCaffrey for the clash and having just two backs on the reserves list.

Prop Scott Sio has also been named to play after passing the early concussion protocols.

The Lions are at the top of the South African conference, but only returned to Johannesburg this week after a draining four-week tour of Australia and New Zealand.

The Brumbies are languishing in fourth on the Australian ladder and are 14th overall after winning three of their 10 games this season.

The frustrating part for the Brumbies is that they've had opportunities to win almost every game they've played.

"It's a new way of playing this year, we understand it's not going to happen straight away for us," Sio said.

"We're the guys on the field and we've got to keep trusting in [the system] and bringing the goods. We're just lacking a bit of execution and scoreboard pressure at the moment.

"We've got to find the fine line between mounting pressure on the scoreboard [by kicking penalties] and taking our chances by kicking to the line [to go for a try].

"It's something that will come together. It's important to get points on the board when you're away from home … we've got to make the right decisions."

The Brumbies won both games on their two-game tour of Port Elizabeth and Buenos Aires last year, proving they can win on the road.

"Our group has always been really good on tour and making sure we prepare as best as we can," Sio said.

"One thing we've said is we're looking forward to the challenge. It's going to be physical, but the Lions have some exciting backs out wide as well. So this is a chance to step up and prove ourselves, it's something we should look forward to."

SUPER RUGBY ROUND 14

Sunday: Johannesburg Lions v ACT Brumbies at Ellis Park, Johannesburg, 1.15am. TV time: Live on Fox Sports.

Brumbies: 15. Tom Banks, 14. Henry Speight, 13. Tevita Kuridrani, 12. Kyle Godwin, 11. Andy Muirhead, 10. Christian Lealiifano, 9. Joe Powell, 8. Isi Naisarani, 7. David Pocock, 6. Rob Valetini, 5. Sam Carter, 4. Rory Arnold, 3. Allan Alaalatoa, 2. Folau Faingaa, 1. Scott Sio. Reserves: 16. Robbie Abel, 17. Nic Mayhew, 18. Ben Alexander, 19. Blake Enever, 20. Lachlan McCaffrey, 21. Tom Cusack, 22. Matt Lucas, 23. Andrew Smith.

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Chris Dutton

Chris Dutton is a sports reporter at The Canberra Times.

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