Former Wallaby boss John Connolly is tipping Christian Lealiifano to run the show against the Lions this summer.
Connolly is convinced the uncapped Brumbies star has what it takes to step up to Test level when Britain and Ireland’s elite provide the opposition in Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney on June 22, 29 and July 6.
Kurtley Beale’s recent suspension for bad behaviour and Quade Cooper’s outspoken rant last year have left the door to No10 wide open and Lealiifano is hoping to be handed the playmaking responsibilities in two-and-a-half months’ time.
Lealiifano has been in fine form for his table-topping franchise so far this term after injury robbed him of a Test debut in 2012 and, even though he has predominantly been playing inside centre with Matt Toomua at 10, Connolly believes Robbie Deans will hand him the reigns at some point in the series.
''There's no doubt Lealiifano can be Australia's No10, but he has to prove it,'' Connolly told the Sydney Morning Herald.
''You would say it's down to (Quade) Cooper, Matt Toomua and Lealiifano for the Wallabies…Christian could have more to offer in his all-round game.
''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.''
Lealiifano will start at outside-half for the Brumbies on Friday night as head coach Jake White opts to rest Toomua and bring back Pat McCabe.
White has since publicly stated that he has picked Lealiifano at fly-half to ''enable Wallabies selectors to see he's versatile enough to be in a matchday 23.''
As for McCabe, he hasn’t played since fracturing his neck in November but has now been given the all clear to press his own Test claims with his first Super Rugby start since July of last year.
Christian Lealiifano – the lowdown
Despite a shockingly long Wallaby injury list last season, few players can count themselves as unfortunate as Lealiifano in 2012. The Brumbies playmaker was outstanding in the early part of the campaign as he finally started to show the necessary consistency to accompany his undoubted and much heralded talents.
The 25-year-old made his Brumbies bow back in 2008 but had failed to hit the heights his potential promised until White brought the best out of him. His silky skills, huge boot and creative approach saw him pressing for a Wallaby spot until he suffered a horrific ankle injury against the Waratahs in May. He sat out the rest of the season as a result and missed out on a first senior international cap at a time when the Wallabies were hhmmming and aahhhing about who to play at 10 before and after Cooper's knee problems and public criticism of Deans and the ARU.
With Deans still seemingly undecided on who will wear the fly-half shirt against the Lions this summer, Connolly isn’t the only person tipping Lealiifano to make the step up if he can repeat his club form this spring. And while White has since thrown a spanner into the works by regularly selecting the Auckland-born star in midfield thanks to the form of Toomua, the next few weeks and months are still lining up to be the biggest of Lealiifano's career.