Brumbies' Rob Valetini targets 'repeat efforts' in quest for Test start

Brumbies back-rower Rob Valetini says he models his game on late All Blacks great Jerry Collins and former France enforcer Sebastien Chabal as he pushes hard to win the Wallabies No. 6 jersey when Australia faces France later this year.

Valetini enjoyed one of his best Super Rugby performances in his side's dramatic 24-22 loss to the Reds last weekend, with his physicality and workrate in defence drawing widespread praise just 12 hours before he flew into Sydney for the three-day Wallabies camp.

And it was there where he got an intimate look at exactly whom he must eclipse in the race for the No. 6 nod and the chance to add to his four Test caps, with the uncapped Tim Anstee and Josh Kemeny joining one-Test player Lachie Swinton at Dave Rennie's 2021 introduction.

With two weeks and then a final series of Super Rugby AU, and then the crossover trans-Tasman series, blindside flanker appears wide open. And after getting a small taste of life in the Wallabies environment last year, Valetini knows what he needs to do to prove he is the right man for the job.

"Learning to train at an intensity that I could transfer straight into a rugby game," Valetini said of his takeaways from his time with the Wallabies in 2020. "I'm just training very hard down at the Brumbies and hopefully they transfer into Saturday's. It's what I've been working on and it's been paying off at the moment.

"Workrate, just kick retreat and stuff like that, just trying to get more repeat efforts. I've been trying to work on my fitness."

Valetini ran for 27 metres from eight carries - the most of any Brumbies forward - and added 11 tackles on Saturday night in a clear sign that "repeat efforts" are a focal point moving forward.

He cuts an imposing figure at 113kg and 192cm, but size alone is not enough to cut it at the game's highest levels and, at just 22, he is still very much on the learning curve.

"I've been so impressed with Robbie this year, everyone knows he's going to be physically dominant and he probably could have dominated Super Rugby when he was 16, 17," Valetini's former Brumbies teammate, Locky McCaffrey, told the ESPN Scrum Reset podcast.

"But' he's only 22 and I think [Brumbies coaches] Dan McKellar and Laurie Fisher and Pete Hewat did a really good job with him last year, working on the areas that he wasn't as good with; skills on an edge, his training standards every day, not switching off, and probably getting his involvements up. And I think this year those three areas have come on a long way."

According to McCaffrey, Valetini returned from last year's Wallabies experience intent on asserting his newfound confidence from the outset and with a mission to solidify a Test spot in 2021.

"I've talked to guys at Brumbies and I know from day one preseason he came in and he's just been carving up training, which a lot of the time it takes guys to get to 25/26 to really realise how important training standards are during a week leading into a game," McCaffrey said. "I only learnt that later on in my career how important that is.

"But the boys have all said how Robbie's training; he's running over blokes on a Monday and Tuesday in drills. And when I heard that I thought that's a great sign for a 22-year-old to really be pushing himself day in, day out. And I think everyone has seen the flow-on effect in his game this year, I've been really impressed...and I think what Robbie brings to a game, for my liking he's a starting No. 6 for the Wallabies."

When Collins and Chabal were at their best at Test level, both men were carrying hard into the defensive line and dishing out plenty of punishment with their tackling, too.

Collins in particular earned a fearsome reputation as part of a dominant All Blacks back-row.

"I try and base my game off the older day number sixes and eights; Jerry Collins, Sébastien Chabal," Valetini replied when asked about the role of a modern No. 6.

"Being physical and trying to have an impact on the game, that's what I'm trying to do, be physical and a be a leader through my actions. If I can be physical through a game, others will follow so trying to stamp my hand."

With Reds young gun Harry Wilson seemingly a certain starter as the Wallabies No. 8, Valetini finds himself in a mix with the rookies who attended the camp in Sydney and even Brumbies teammate Pete Samu, who started at No. 6 in the first Test against the All Blacks last year, for a run-on spot against France.

"I think none of the numbers are set and settled," Valetini said. "I think that's going to be for everyone in the team. No one's already picked in that squad so I think that'll be motivation to try and get in the starting team."