ACT Brumbies lock Sam Carter will make an emotional return to the Super Rugby starting side just days after farewelling one of his childhood friends.
Carter will be picked in the Brumbies’ starting line-up for the blockbuster Australian derby against the NSW Waratahs at Canberra Stadium on Friday night.
The Wallabies second-rower returned to his home town of Quirindi last week to be closer to family and grieve the loss of Nicholas Tooth, who died after a collision in a rugby match.
The Brumbies granted Carter compassionate leave for an undefined period, but the 25-year-old has told coach Stephen Larkham he wants to be part of the team to play the Waratahs.
Larkham had no hesitation in shifting his line-up to get Carter back into the forward pack after returning to Canberra on Wednesday, despite not being able to train for the past week.
“We gave Sam space, he went back up there [Quirindi] with family, and that was nice but very emotional for him as well,” Larkham said.
“I had a chat to him and he’s very keen to play. If there were any doubts about mentally if he was right to play, we wouldn’t push him at all.
“But he was very keen to play … he will have plenty of focus on what he has to do. I’m sure there will be thoughts running around his head but he will focus on the detail.”
Both the Brumbies and Waratahs wore black armbands last week to pay tribute to Tooth.
Hundreds of friends and family said goodbye to Tooth at a service in Quirindi on Tuesday, with Carter and ARU chief executive Bill Pulver also present.
The Quirindi Lions players lined up in a guard of honour outside the church.
Tooth’s death rocked the rugby union community, given his initial injuries happened in a collision on the field.
“For someone so young to pass away, it’s going to affect the community,” Larkham said. “We certainly felt it down here through Carts. It was very unfortunate and you never want to see something like that happen.”
The Brumbies will make minimal changes to their starting side this week, with Wallabies Carter and tight-head prop Ben Alexander returning.
Alexander was moved to the bench last weekend to rotate him in a busy World Cup year, but he gets the No.3 jersey back, with Ruan Smith shifting to the bench.
Carter replaces Blake Enever, while towering lock Rory Arnold moves out of the game-day squad and will play 80 minutes of Canberra club rugby on Saturday, as he continues his recovery from a back problem.
SUPER RUGBY ROUND 12
Friday: ACT Brumbies v NSW Waratahs at Canberra Stadium, 7.40pm. TV time: Live on Fox Sports 2. Tickets available from Ticketek.