In a Test squad, there are few tougher positions than the one Billy Meakes finds himself in right now.
There are players that will never play for the Wallabies simply because they’re not good enough and then there are those that had the talent but not the drive.
Meakes fits neither bill.
He is yet to make his debut but that is absolutely through no fault of his own.
After a stellar debut season with the Western Force, the 26-year-old is in breathtaking form at NRC level and it’s easy for all to see that he’s at the level required to play Test footy.
He makes the game look easy in attack and is an outstanding defensive player, rarely missing a tackle and making his presence known at the breakdown.While Meakes makes splitting the line and putting others away easy, the task of breaking into Michael Cheika’s 23 has proven far more difficult.
That’s simply due to the position he plays, as Kurtley Beale has been Australia’s best player since returning from a stint with Wasps.
Karmichael Hunt is on the road to recovery from a syndesmosis injury and he was, again, among Australia’s best when given first crack at inside centre in June.
That leaves Meakes with little wiggle room.
“I suppose it’s in all of our nature that you don’t come here to be outside the 23,” Meakes told RUGBY.com.au.
“I’m really happy with my progress and I’ve got some good feedback from the coaches that I’m not far off.
“The reality is there are a lot of good players in the squad at the moment and the guys in my position are playing really well.“Whenever it comes, if it comes, I will be ready and I’m loving being here at the moment.”
All Meakes can do is train the house down - which he has done in Johannesburg all week - and show he is class above when he plays for the Spirit - another box he has ticked.
“We sit down with all the coaches before we go back to NRC and set some goals around what we want to do,” he said.
“The goal has to be to stand out in that competition and to really be a step above everyone else.
“That’s our goal and around specific stuff Greysie (defence coach Nathan Grey) gets in and speaks to me about defensive stuff at the breakdown.
“Really specific stuff like getting three turnovers a game or something like that.
“Then with Bernie (assistant coach Stephen Larkham) - he’s been fantastic in the review process - every game that I have played in the NRC, he’s viewed it and given me stuff to work on each time.”That attention to detail has Meakes knocking on the door of Wallabies debut that will no doubt eventuate in the coming months, if not weeks.
As for the coming year, Meakes is yet to decide on where he will play Super Rugby in 2018, with the Waratahs understood to be front runners in the hunt for his signature.
“There’s still a fair bit going on and I still haven’t made my mind up,” he said.
“There are still a few options, I suppose, but the blessing in disguise is that I’m involved in this camp at the moment so there is no real rush.
“I’m sure in the next couple of weeks we will figure it out.”
The one thing Meakes is certain about is the country he’ll be playing in next year, as he has no plans in heading back overseas, where he got his start, with Gloucester.
He also spoke very highly of Force coach Dave Wessels, who is being wooed by both the Rebels and Irish giant Munster.
"He's right up there with the best and that's a big compliment for him because he is still so young," Meakes said.
"This year was an outstanding year for him, I have loved working with him and I've been talking to him almost every day over the last couple of weeks to see what's going on with both of us.
"We are both undecided about our futures but if there is an opportunity for us to stay together, it might not be next year but it might be some stage in the future, it would be a shame to let that go."The Wallabies take on the Springboks in Bloemfontein on Sunday night, kicking off at 12am AEDT and Sunday 1am AEST, broadcast LIVE on FOX SPORTS.