Rangi dreaming of Wallaby gold

by AAP

The midweek beers and gut are long gone for Melbourne Rebels hooker Anaru Rangi, who hopes to replace them with a Wallabies jersey.

The 29-year-old has gone from playing club footy for fun to being first choice Rebels rake and winning man of the match in their crucial Super Rugby victory over the Brumbies last round.

With Tatafu Polota-Nau in Europe, Rangi is also among the contenders to fill the vacant No.2 jersey for the Wallabies' three-Test home series against Ireland next month.

"I'm a bit of a late bloomer as (Rebels coach) Dave Wessels likes to call me," Rangi told AAP.

"I never really took rugby seriously until I moved to Perth and left a few mates behind in New Zealand and actually gave it a a good crack so I owe a lot to the Australian system for giving me a shot."Rangi is a self confessed late bloomer. Photo: Getty ImagesRangi admitted that just a year or so ago he couldn't have played 80 minutes as he did against the Brumbies.

Carrying at least an extra 20 kilograms and spending more time in the pub than the gym, he said he wasn't up to it.

"There wasn't a lot that was strict about me in those days," said Rangi, who is down to 104kg.

"Being a tradie there was certainly a few beers midweek - more than I'd like to confess to so I definitely needed a lot of work.

"I gave up the beers and started cooking at home and training hard and the weight started to fall off."

Born in Wellington, Rangi shifted to Perth in search of a job in the mines and started playing club rugby.Anaru Rangi admits he was far from fit in his early playing days. Photo: Getty ImagesSoon after he was brought in as injury cover for the Western Force and over two seasons played nine matches, but has made the most of his opportunities since joining Melbourne this season.

His form relegated Jordan Uelese to the bench, with the young Test hooker then suffering an arm injury which has left him in race against the clock to be fit for Ireland.

"I always knew the challenge at the Rebels was going to be a tough one but I backed myself to give it a go," Rangi said.

"I knew Jordan was still quite young and up and coming so I thought I might have been able to slip in there."

Rangi has only just become available for Wallabies selection through residency and says he's "flattered" to be in the mix.

But he's also determined.

"The hooker position is up for grabs for whoever wants to take it by the reins and make it theirs so that's what I'm trying to do."