Wallabies prop Sekope Kepu says 2017 will be a chance for Test rookies to take the next step, with the first Test squad of the year to be announced on Tuesday night.
Allan Alaalatoa and Tom Robertson were handed their Wallabies debuts last year and Kepu backed them to go to another level this season.
The pair aren’t the only young front rowers impressing Kepu, though, with Rebels prop Tyrel Lomax, who was a surprise inclusion in a Wallabies camp earlier this year, and the Force’s props also rating a mention.
Scott Sio is unlikely to have recovered from a knee injury in time for the first Test on June 10, but the Brumbies loosehead will be in the mix for the final two.
“A lot of guys got a lot of opportunities last year and now Tom Robertson and Allan, they’ve all played Test footy now and know what it requires,” he said.
“So, it’s going to be interesting with what happens with selections - I’m not sure how far (away) Scotty is but you’ve got good young guys coming through.
“You’ve got Lomax and those guys, guys from Perth and those battles will continue and look we’ll see what happens tomorrow. I guess the big focus for us this week is a chance to get through that and look at that after.”
The front row isn’t the only place where injuries may give rookies an opportunity, with the loss of Sean McMahon (wrist), Ben McCalman (shoulder) in the back row and the severity of Nick Phipps’ ankle injury still not known.
Those backrow injuries could open the door for Chris Alcock or Colby Faingaa to step up to the Test squad, while Ned Hanigan has thrown himself into contention at blindside.
Joe Powell would be next in line for Phipps, should be he ruled out.
Dane Haylett-Petty is reportedly in the mix to return for the Force this weekend, just in time to test out his hamstring before June.
His availability could determine whether Wallabies coach Michael Cheika squeezes another bolter into the squad, in Reds rookie Campbell Magnay.
The performances of Brumbies fullback Tom Banks in recent weeks have also caught the eye, creating an intriguing decision in the outside backs.
Cheika has sung Magnay’s praises this season, despite his lack of game time, and the Queenslander fits the Test mentor’s general prototype.
The Wallabies coach flagged last week that he would be naming a 33-man squad, with two full XVs and a spare prop, hooker and halfback, but that there could be names who had not been involved in any preliminary camps this season.
Cheika will name the squad publicly on FOX SPORTS’ Kick and Chase on Tuesday night, at 6:30pm AEST.
POSSIBLE WALLABIES SQUAD
Scott Sio, Allan Alaalatoa, Tom Robertson, Sekope Kepu, Toby Smith
Stephen Moore, Tolu Latu, Tatafu Polota-Nau
Adam Coleman, Rory Arnold, Dean Mumm, Rob Simmons
Scott Fardy, Ned Hanigan, Michael Hooper, Colby Faingaa, Lopeti Timani, Richard Hardwick
Will Genia, Nick Phipps, Joe Powell
Bernard Foley, Quade Cooper
Samu Kerevi, Tevita Kuridrani, Kyle Godwin, Reece Hodge
Henry Speight, Marika Koroibete, Sefa Naivalu, Dane Haylett-Petty/Campbell Magnay
Israel Folau, Karmichael Hunt/Tom Banks