Wallabies centre Lalakai Foketi is ready to translate his sudden call-up into a long-term spot in the national set-up.
Foketi held off Irae Simone to earn a maiden start against Argentina in San Juan, just a month after he missed selection for the England series.
“I thought Lal had his best season ever from a Super Rugby point of view,” coach Dave Rennie believes.
“He’s a good athlete with good feet, the ability to beat people through that or transfer. He’s as quick as I have seen him and worked really hard on his game post-tackle so we’re excited.
“We contemplated playing ‘E’ (Irae Simone) from a combination point of view with Lenny (Ikitau) but we genuinely believe Lal is ready to go. It’s been good to have E in the mix and he’s a great communicator, also his best season since I’ve been here…it’s nice for him to be off the bench, his two caps were both in (green) First Nations jersey so fantastic he can play in a gold one.”
The Waratah is the third different player to wear the 12 jersey in three separate weeks following injuries to Samu Kerevi (knee) and Hunter Paisami (concussion).
Having got a taste of the gold jersey last year, coming off the bench in the final nine minutes of the final Test against Wales, Foketi was eager to make a statement.
“It’s awesome (to be starting). I said back at Royal Pines (during camp) that I was just excited to be back part of the camp so to be able to get the opportunity to run out and start with the boys is awesome,” Foketi told reporters.
“I think coming into this point last year and getting that crack at the end of last year (against Wales), it’s pushed my ambitions and motivated me to continue to get better and push into the 23.
“I think this year has been great, first season without injury so it’s just been about building consistency and try and play as many minutes as I could.”
Foketi understands Sunday's (AEST) Test against Argentina represents a perfect stage to push his claims and try and maintain his spot in the Wallabies squad with a host of players on the return.
Rennie expects up to nine players to be available for the home Tests against South Africa, including Paisami, Scott Sio, Angus Bell, Allan Alaalatoa, Dave Porecki and Andrew Kellaway amongst others.
With competition only heightened by players such as Reece Hodge and Fraser McReight coming from the Australia A program and establishing their Test credentials, Foketi was looking to do to same.
"You've got great inside centres here and the centres here in Australian Rugby I think are really strong," he added.
"It's an opportunity for me to put my hand up but it's a strongly competed group, especially inside. For me, I just want to play my game and try what I can for the team."