Super Rugby captaincy has given Sam Carter a newfound clarity this season, in a year that has arguably his best yet.
Carter started alongside Adam Coleman in the second row against Fiji, picked over incumbent and Brumbies teammate Rory Arnold, in a new-look lineout department.
He is the eldest in that group, though has just four more Tests than Coleman and five more than Arnold, in the four years he has been around the Wallabies fringes.
The 27-year-old’s Tests have come in fits and starts - 11 appearances in 2014 were followed by a late call-up into the 2015 World Cup squad after an injury to Will Skelton, but no further match involvements.
Last year, he had one start in June, before missing out on Rugby Championship sides and the Spring Tour squad, playing for the Barbarians and a Wallaby XV side in November.
Having signed a new contract with the ARU and Brumbies at the start of this season, his Wallabies chances were clearly not written off, but Carter has stepped things up in 2017.
“I think it's just being a bit more consistent really,working on a lot of things in the off-season like leg drive, ball carry, contact, stuff like that,” he said.
“If I can keep trying to improve that throughout June anything I can do to put myself in the best position to be selected week in, week out.”
Carter has thrived as the Brumbies co-captain this season and though he plays down his individual role, Carter said the analytical element to being a captain had changed his game.
“It's definitely added to my game,” he said.
“I think I see the game a lot more clearly, I think about it a lot more going into a match and I think it's really helped me out there on the park.
“I had a lot of help from Christian (Lealiifano), and all the other senior guys.
“I've learned off so many fantastic leaders in the past like Poey (David Pocock) and Squeak (Stephen Moore) so I'm only looking to add to my game from here.”
Arnold said Carter had noticeably lifted with the added responsiblity.
“He's had a great season this year with the Brums, he's very well-deserved to be back in here and this year that extra, having that captaincy it's been good and I think it's brought his game along as well,” he said.
“It can go one of two ways, some players don't really cope with it too well and their game suffers but you can see with Sam he went the other way and he's playing some really good footy.
“He's really enjoying the captaincy at the Brums and he's doing really well at it too."
Now that he’s had one 2017 start, Carter’s next challenge is making sure he can get another, with Arnold breathing down his neck and the knowledge that there are Test players even outside the squad.
“I've played a lot of footy with Rory over the last couple of years and the first year he was pretty raw but the second year he turned into a world-class lock and we saw that last year when he was playing for the Wallabies,” he said.
“I can't take it (Test chances) lightly, there's some world class locks like ‘Simmo’ (Rob Simmons) and Kane (Douglas) who are still playing super Rugby in Queensland.
“Dean's (Waratahs’ Dean Mumm) leaving at the end of the year but you've always got to be on your toes and make sure every time you do get a chance to represent the Wallabies it's your best effort.”
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