Former Australian coach John Connolly has backed Christian Lealiifano to be the man to move in at No 10 for the Wallabies against the British & Irish Lions this summer.
The ACT Brumbies outside half has forced his way into the running to take over the vital pivot role after steering his side to the top of the Super Rugby table. He wasn't able to save his side from an after the siren try that earned the Southern Kings a 28-28 draw in Canberra in this weekend's Round 8 clash, but he is earning plenty of plaudits.
Warren Gatland would have expected to face one of the more familiar faces in the three test sereiss - Quade Cooper, James O'Connor, Kurtley Beale or Berrick Barnes - but they have all had their problems this season. Josh Toomau has also come through .
Lealiifano was on the verge of an international breakthrough last May before an ankle injury dashed his hopes. Now Connolly reckons the rookie play-maker is ready to make the step up.
''There's no doubt [Lealiifano] can be [Australia's] No.10, but he has to prove it.You would say it's down to Cooper, Toomua and Lealiifano for the Wallabies … Christian could have more to offer in his all-round game," said Connolly.
''He's the dark horse because he's been playing inside centre, he's a young player on the way up and the talent is evident. The challenge is the Test level. I think he will make it and he'll be in the Wallabies squad.''