Mann-Rea beefs up as race for spots heats up

Super Rugby
by Sam Phillips

Josh Mann-Rea may have made the starting hooker job at the Brumbies his own in 2017 but he isn't taking that spot for granted.

Mann-Rea welcomes the competition provided by Robbie Abel and breakout Canberra Vikings star Folau Faingaa, who will all vie for the top job in 2018.

"Having last year and doing the full season as a starter, it gives you a lot of experience playing into a game rather than coming in and finishing a game," Mann-Rea said.

"I'm looking forward to the competition with the other hookers to try and get that role again.

"We are pretty tight, the hookers here, and we push each other really hard to ensure all of us are performing really good.Mann-Rea has made the hooker job his own after biding his time behind Stephen Moore. Photo: Getty Images"That's one lucky thing about the Brumbies here this year - we have a lot of depth in a lot of positions.

"Hookers, props, second rowers as well, it makes for really good competition and tough selections for the coaches."

The Brumbies have just a handful of preseason sessions left before taking two weeks off for Christmas and the man they call "Bongo" said he had added 2kg to his frame, pushing his playing weight to 108kg.

"It's definitely the strongest I have been," he said.

"I'm feeling fitter, stronger even though I am a little bit heavier - I'm leaner as well."Mann-Rea has added 2kg to his frame for season 2018. Photo: Getty ImagesThat extra weight is coming in handy, as new coach Dan McKellar is putting the team through their most physical preseason in Mann-Rea's five years at the club.

The 36-year-old is brandishing six stitches above his right eye after a head clash with rookie prop Harry Lloyd.

"I think the impact that we have been doing is probably the most physical work we have done in a preseason since I've been here," Mann-Rea said.

"It's been pretty much fully live and guys have been whacking each other pretty hard and cutting each other in half.

"Hopefully if we can do that to each other, we can do it against other teams."