Time across the ditch helped shape Samu

by Sam Phillips

It's taken close to four years, but Pete Samu's big gamble has paid off.

Samu arrived in Wallabies camp this week after a well-publicised tug-of-war between Rugby Australia and NZR reached a resolution on Sunday, a tussle the backrower has done his best to avoid.

His arrival caps a remarkable journey from Randwick to New Zealand and back, after taking a huge gamble in leaving Sydney for the Waimea Old Boys in 2014 - a team in the Tasman club competition.

His form for Waimea turned into a chance with Tasman in the 2014 ITM Cup and a 2015 season with the Crusaders' development side, making his Super Rugby debut in 2016.

A breakout season finally arrived in 2018 and Samu is the first to admit he wouldn't be back in Australia preparing for a potential Test debut if he hadn't taken the leap in 2014.

"When I was playing at Randwick I didn't really have much knowledge of the game and being over in New Zealand has really helped me out with that," he told RUGBY.com.au.Pete Samu is ready to make his Wallabies debut. Photo: RUGBY.com.au/Stuart Walmsley"It's helped me understand the game more and helped me understand how I can be a lot more effective around the park - things like that."

Samu's set piece and defensive work have become two of his biggest assets, a far cry from the kind of style he employed in two seasons at Randwick.

"Definitely being at Randwick - my lineout, scrum and defence wasn't really one of my main focuses," he said.

"I just got better at it over there and I definitely think being over there has really helped my game.

"It's probably the biggest reason that I've been able to come back home."

Signing with the Brumbies means the 26-year-old will be back in Australia full time from 2019, though Samu admits he never thought a Test debut was within reach when he left Sydney.

"It's going to be quite tough to leave the Crusaders with what they've done for me and the way they've been going but I'm pretty excited for that fresh challenge," he said.Samu could make his debut against Ireland this Saturday. Photo: RUGBY.com.au/Stuart Walmsley"When I made the decision to go over there, I never thought I'd be back and be back here as part of the Wallabies squad.

"Things have turned out different and I'm here now and I'm excited."

While aware of the to-and-fro it took to bring him into the squad, the 26-year-old ensured it was not a distraction in the Crusaders' Super Rugby campaign.

"I haven't let it affect me," he said.

"I've been more focused on getting through that game against the Chiefs on the weekend and all this was out of my hands so I couldn't really do much about it.

"I try and stay clear of social media and all that stuff."

Now that the fanfare has subsided and Samu is in camp, he has declared himself ready for whatever shape a Test debut takes.

"If I'm picked to start or I'm on the bench, I just have to back myself and be ready to go," he said.

"I'll just try and get through this week and whatever happens, I'll be doing it at 100 per cent."

The Wallabies take on Ireland in a three-Test June Series, kicking off on Saturday June 9 at 8pm AEST. Buy tickets here.