Sekope Kepu will return to the Wallabies starting side for the first time since the World Cup final and it’s a place he had thought he would never be again.
Kepu signed with French side Bordeaux after last year’s World Cup, at the time thinking it would be his last Wallabies chance despite newly introduced eligibility laws.
Seven months on from that tournament, Kepu is back starting in Wallabies gold and set to return to the NSW Waratahs after the series is over.
“Things happened within that window of time and I wouldn't have imagined I would be in Melbourne, or Brisbane last week, training with the Wallabies,” he said.
“But I have been picked and again it is an opportunity to stamp your mark and play your best.”
The Wallabies tighthead said he had learned plenty in his short time in France, both on and off the field.
“I learned a lot about myself in general, as well as my little family,” he said.
“I have learned a lot since going there, even though it has only been six months. I learned a lot.
Kepu has also brought an extra insight into the European game, with a changed mentality after his stint with Bordeaux.
“In terms of footy, it taught me a lot about the scrummaging and the whole mentality around it. They pride themselves on it in France and I would like to think - I am obviously still improving - but I have learned a lot since being over there.”
Kepu is one of four changes in the Wallabies forward pack for Saturday’s second Test, with James Slipper, Sam Carter and Sean McMahon all in the starting side.
Carter will be playing a key role when he reunites with Super Rugby partner Rory Arnold on Saturday, taking on the lineout calling job from usual caller Rob Simmons.
The 12-Test Wallabies forward will be playing in the side for the first time since last year’s World Cup warm-up clash with the USA and said his familiarity with Arnold would be handy on his return.
“It will help both of us,” he said.
“We are a familiar combination. We spent a lot of time together down in Canberra and played a fair bit this season, so I think it will help both of us.
The Wallabies had their first chance to test out the much-maligned AAMI Park surface on Wednesday night and Carter said
“I played here about six rounds ago against the Rebels and it wasn't great,” he said.
“But it was a completely different surface tonight so it is looking good.”