Rising Reds star Isaac Lucas says he will take his Super Rugby learnings back to the Junior Wallabies fold as Australia's best young players prepare for an Oceania tournament they hope provides a successful springboard to the U20 World Cup.
Lucas, who has turned out in all seven of the Reds' Super Rugby matches so far this season, was among a squad of 32 players named for the Oceania U20 Championship on the Gold Coast later this month.
In a sign of how seriously Australia's Super Rugby franchises are taking the Junior Wallabies as a breeding ground, Lucas was not picked for the Reds' tour of South Africa, with coach Brad Thorn opting to leave him and Reds teammate Fraser McReight behind to concentrate on their U20 preparations.
Queensland flyer Jack Hardy was a late addition to the touring squad due to a backline injury crisis and will join his Junior Wallaby teammates on his return.
They may be looking at the big picture, but Lucas said it was the small things he had learnt from his time in Super Rugby that would make the difference to his - and he hoped Australia's - preparations.
"I think there's a lot that I can take from the year I've had so far," Lucas said.
"Just the small things around training, preparing well, those things I think will be crucial for this year's 20s campaign.
"Preparing well, knowing your role and what you have to do for the team, just the professionalism involved that I've seen in the Super (Rugby) is what I'll take back to the 20s."
Lucas is in his third year as a Junior Wallaby and has learnt plenty in the past from players returning from Super Rugby.
"Just the way they approach things gives you a bit of reassurance that you're all heading in the right way," he said.
"The little stuff is big, I think, in campaigns like this.
"There were a fair few (Super Rugby players in the Junior Wallabies) last year but this year I think we've got a good, well-balanced group and some good depth to have a successful campaign."
And as one of the most experienced now, Lucas will look to take on a leadership role to share what he has learned at the next level.
"I wouldn't say there's pressure to do so but it's something that I'll look to take on this year. It's my third year in the 20s program, so I'll definitely look to take a bit of a leadership role," he said.
Lucas will be one of Australia's key playmakers on the Gold Coast but exactly where he lines up is still a mystery.
"I'll have a chat to Gilly (head coach Jason Gilmore) in the next few days just to get this thoughts on what's happening with the team but there's no real preference, just whatever is the best fit for the team," he said.
"Whether that's 10, 15 or perhaps 12 - whatever the best fit is."
Australia plays Japan, Fiji and New Zealand in the Gold Coast tournament ahead of the U20 World Cup in Argentina in June.
"Argentina's obviously the bigger picture but the Oceania tournament is very important," Lucas said.
"The way we prepare for this and how we play in it will be a big indication of how we go in Argentina, so we've got to prepare well.
"It's a good tournament. It's a bit different this year with Japan being involved, that's exciting.
"And with Fiji being in there, they'll bring a bit of their attacking offload and spice and New Zealand have been consistent over a number of years there, so it's got the makings of a good tournament and we've got to be on song if we want to do well.
"It's going to lay the foundation for a good campaign but definitely the focus is on the Oceania tournament and not Argentina just yet."
The squad, which includes 12 contracted Super Rugby players, will head into camp next week in the lead-up to the Championship at Bond University with their first match against Japan kicking off on April 26.
Lucas will be joined by Queensland contracted players McReight and Harry Wilson, as well as Hardy, who will join the squad on return from tour in South Africa.
The Queensland group will link up with NSW rivals Angus Bell, Ben Donaldson, Will Harris, Pat Tafa and Will Harrison.
Junior Wallabies stalwarts Esei Ha’angana, Trevor Hosea and Semisi Tupou will be flying the flag for the Melbourne Rebels while Qantas Australian Men’s Sevens speedster Triston Reilly has been released from Tim Walsh’s Sevens squad for the U20s Championship.
Gilmore said he was looking forward to taking a strong, well-prepared squad into the competition which acts as a lead-up to the world championships in Argentina in June.
“We’ve got nine members of the 2018 World Championship squad back again in the fold, so they will be leading some of our newer members in the group," Gilmore said.
“The whole squad have put in the work to earn their spot so it’s now a matter of maintaining this work ethic as we head into camp."
The Junior Wallabies finished second at last year’s championship after going down to New Zealand 43-28 in the final.
Oceania U20 Championship squad:
Oliver Barden (NSW)
Angus Bell (NSW)
Darcy Breen (NSW)
Joe Cotton (QLD)
Ben Donaldson (NSW)
Max Douglas (NSW)
Esei Ha’angana (VIC)
Jack Hardy (QLD)
Will Harris (NSW)
Will Harrison (NSW)
Trevor Hosea (VIC)
Tom Kibble (QLD)
Nathan Lawson (NSW)
Noah Lolesio (ACT)
Lachlan Lonergan (ACT)
Isaac Lucas (QLD)
Michael McDonald (WA)
Fraser McReight (QLD)
Josh Nasser (QLD)
Mark Nawaqanitawase (NSW)
Kye Oates (QLD)
Bryon Ralston (QLD)
Triston Reilly (AU7s)
Henry Robertson (NSW)
Egan Siggs (QLD)
Patrick Tafa (NSW)
Sione Tui (VIC)
Semisi Tupou (VIC)
Liam Usher (QLD)
Joey Walton (NSW)
Harry Wilson (QLD)
Michael Wood (QLD)
Oceania U20s Championship, Bond University, Gold Coast
Round 1 – Friday, April 26
New Zealand v Fiji, 5pm
Australia v Japan, 7pm
Round 2 – Tuesday, April 30
New Zealand v Japan, 5pm
Australia v Fiji, 7pm
Round 3 – Saturday, May 4
Japan v Fiji, 5pm
New Zealand v Australia, 7pm