Representing Australia A at the Pacific Nations Cup has Waratahs centre Lalakai Foketi match-hardened and ready to play for the Wallabies on the two-Test tour of Argentina.
With star centre Samu Kerevi on Commonwealth Games duty with Australia’s Rugby Sevens squad, there is a vacancy in the Wallabies’ backline for the Rugby Championship Tests against the Pumas next month.
Foketi was overlooked for Wallabies selection in Australia’s recent 2-1 series loss to England.
Instead, he had to settle for a spot in the Australia A squad which played the Pacific Nations Cup in Fiji.
Australia A finished second in the PNC, beating Fiji and Tonga, but lost to competition winners Samoa.
Foketi’s PNC form led to him being one of four Australia A players – the others being Matt Gibbon, Jock Campbell and Fraser McReight – called into the Wallabies’ squad for the trip to Argentina.
“It was always a goal and ambition to get back in (to the Wallabies squad) so I’m grateful to get back in and be among the group,” Foketi said.
“It was disappointing to not make the England series but to go away with the ‘Oz’ A squad was awesome to play in that PNC.
“You look at the games and who we played, it was strong and physical in tough conditions so I’ll be banking on those games … It’s a huge step up from going back to playing club footy.
“If you’re going from that competition into the Argentina series and The Rugby Championship, I think you’d take a lot of confidence out of that.
“I definitely did, playing against those sides. It is a big step. I think I would be ready
“Hopefully the match fitness is up there, so I think I’m ready if I get the opportunity in Argentina.
“We didn’t know what to expect but it’s the same environment here – you’re basically playing for Australia.
“It’s pretty much the same play sheet, so it’s a great platform to go from there straight into the Wallabies.
“If it’s your first training and you didn’t have Australia A under your belt, you’d have to learn quite quickly.
“The (PNC) competition was massive and it’s a great set-up and it should continue.”
Rebels prop Gibbon, 27, said he “bloody enjoyed” the PNC.
“The heat over there was a bit crazy, but you are just playing – just playing rugby.”
“I have been around the park a while now. I have always been head-up, looking to get back in here (to the Wallabies squad) and give it a crack.”