From Bledisloe Cup to club rugby: Sam Carter's grand final chance

How does an undefeated team on the verge of a perfect season get even better? Add an ACT Brumbies captain for his first John I Dent Cup game in five years.

Injuries and suspension have opened the door for Brumbies skipper Sam Carter to join Royals for their grand final clash against Wests at Viking Park on Saturday.

It will be the first time he has played for the Phillip-based club since 2012 after playing almost every Super Rugby game since making his Brumbies debut in 2011.

Carter, who was cut from the Wallabies squad two weeks ago, hesitated at first because he did not want to take a premiership opportunity from someone who had played for Royals the entire season.

But the devastating suspension of Luke Kimber for the grand final and the absence of lock Leo Ngahe, who has returned to New Zealand, meant Royals were searching for someone to fill the void.

So instead of preparing for a Bledisloe Cup clash, Carter trained with Royals on a chilly Thursday night in Canberra to hopefully help Royals complete an unbeaten season.

"I've been in that situation before at Sydney Uni when I played first grade all year and I got dropped for the finals because the NSW Waratahs came back," Carter said.

"So I definitely didn't want to do that to one of the blokes at the Royals. I joined the boys at training on Tuesday night and I'm pretty excited actually.

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"I do still have some mixed feelings and find it a bit awkward. But Royals had injuries and suspensions, so my responsibility now is to do the best I can for the boys."

Kimber has been suspended for accumulating three yellow cards during the season.

Ngahe returned to New Zealand for personal reasons and his departure has forced Royals to play a prop in the second row in recent weeks.

"The thing is, he's not taking anyone's spot. That was the primary concern of both myself and Carts," said Royals coach Wayne Southwell said.

"It's not something I believe in and neither does he. We don't have a back-up spot, and if this was a regular season game at Phillip, we'd ask if he could play. We would have been in trouble in the second row."

Carter played for Royals against Queanbeyan in 2012 but has played almost 80 Super Rugby games and 16 Wallabies Tests since then.

Brumbies players are allocated to Canberra clubs to bolster to capital's premier division, with Royals boasting Tom Cusack, Tom Staniforth, Faalelei Sione and Andy Muirhead.

Wests will have Nick Jooste, but Rob Valetini has been ruled out with concussion while Scott Fardy (Ireland), Tomas Cubelli (Argentina) and Aidan Toua (Japan) have left Canberra.

Carter still remembers being axed from the Sydney University side for Waratahs players Dean Mumm, Dave Dennis and Will Caldwell before he moved to Canberra.

It was the first thing that popped into his mind when Southwell called to check his availability.

But Cusack also called Carter to reassure him he wasn't taking anyone's spot and Royals needed another second-rower for the grand final.

Royals have won every game this year and could become the first team since 2004 to remain undefeated if they topple Wests in the grand final.

"If I can add anything, that's what I want to do. I enjoy getting back to club rugby, I always try to do it when I get back home to Quirindi with the Quirindi Lions.

"You can't take these opportunities for granted. Even though it's late, it's still a grand final. It means a lot to a lot of people, so I definitely won't be taking this chance lightly."


Saturday: Royals v Wests at Viking Park, 3.25pm. Grand finals start at Viking Park at 11.25am.

This story From Bledisloe Cup to club rugby: Sam Carter's grand final chance first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.