Alaalatoa relishing run of starts

The Rugby Championship
by Sam Phillips

Being in the right place at the right time opened the door for Allan Alaalatoa's second crack at stringing Test starts together and he doesn't intend on giving the No. 3 jersey back any time soon.

At the start of the Test season the star Brumbies tighthead might have been considered the third best tighthead in the country.

Sekope Kepu had a mortgage on the No. 3 jersey almost back as far as 2012 and Taniela Tupou's star was burning brighter with each Test cap.

Alaalatoa, in contrast, was somewhat of a forgotten man.

He had come off the bench in his last nine Tests and missed the entire June series through injury.

That all changed in the lead up to the second Bledisloe.

Kepu was dropped after a poor showing in Sydney and with Tupou unavailable due to a hamstring injury, Alaalatoa was called upon.

He hasn't looked back since.

"Just getting that opportunity to start has been huge for myself and then getting back to back games," Alaalatoa said.

"You become probably more used to starting and then you get more used to your role and what you have to deliver.

"You have guys like Taniela who is pushing myself, the same as Sekope.

"It’s only forcing us to be at our best which is only going to be healthy for our team.

"Just cherishing the opportunity and if I get another opportunity this weekend it’s going to be great."

The 24-year-old is set to start his fourth consecutive Test for the year in Port Elizabeth this weekend.

It's a feat he hasn't managed since being pushed back to the bench following last year's Dunedin Bledisloe and in that time the Australian scrum has been an inconsistent part of their game.

Against Ireland it proved to be a weapon but has been hot and cold since.

Alaalatoa said there was no simple fix to sort out that inconsistency.

"We’re still inconsistent all round in terms of our whole combinations a forward pack and it’s something we’re looking to develop throughout the week," Alaalatoa said.

"It’s not going to just come naturally.

"There are some combinations there we need to work on but that’s something we need to work on today."

Those combinations can only be aided by time spent on the road and the Australians can take some hope from the fact they played some of their best rugby of 2017 in South Africa and Argentina last year.

They drew with the Springboks in Bloemfontein before thumping the Pumas in Mendoza and those matches set the platform for the drought-breaking win over the All Blacks in Brisbane.

"We’re growing as a group and with the away games being later in the season we’re obviously hitting towards that point where we’re developing and getting to know our game plan," Alaalatoa said.

"We only have each other and it’s something we need to draw on and use throughout the week."

Drawing on each other in the moments that matter most will likely decide the winner of this Test match as they have been as evenly matched as any two countries in the world over the past five years.

Six of their last seven Tests have been decided by less than a converted try and the scoreboard couldn't split them in both Perth and Bloemfontein last year.

That has Alaalatoa relishing the task at hand in Port Elizabeth this weekend.

"Being away now is going to be good for us," he said.

"When it’s does get close we only have to draw (upon) each other to push through that barrier.

"It’s a good time for us to tour and connect as a group and get to know each other, a lot more than what we do now."

The Wallabies face the Springboks in Port Elizabeth on Sunday September 30 AEST, kicking off at 1:05am AEST, LIVE on FOX SPORTS.