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'That's the focus': Lukhan Salakaia-Loto sets sights on Wallabies recall

By AAP
Lukhan Salakaia-Loto in preseason training for the Rebels. Photo by Kelly Defina/Getty Images

Lukhan Salakaia-Loto has set his sights on a Wallabies recall under new coach Joe Schmidt as he looks to impress on his return to Super Rugby Pacific with Melbourne.

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The 27-year-old lock-cum-backrower was a stand-out for the Rebels in their trial match win over the Waratahs in early February, with the team having a final pre-season hit-out against the Fijian Drua in Melbourne on Friday.

Looking fit and lean, Salakaia-Loto said he felt settled in his new home, which was being reflected on the field.

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“Footy (Melbourne coach Kevin Foote) and the boys have made the transition quite easy for me,” Salakaia-Loto told AAP.

“I’m just bringing what I can to the group, and hopefully it’s adding in a positive way.

“It’s the best I’ve felt in a long time and being home back in Australia, settled in with my family, certainly helps.

“I’m happy as well, which is a reflection of the environment and the group of boys who we’ve got here, and the coaching staff.”

Salakaia-Loto spent last year with English club Northampton, which he said helped him evolve as a player and person after nine seasons with Queensland.

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“Just the change itself is the biggest thing – change can be such a positive thing,” he said.

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“I was in the same place (Queensland Reds) for about nine years, so to experience something else and see things from a different perspective certainly helped my game grow.

“Taking my family overseas and experiencing a new lifestyle has benefited me and hopefully it’ll show this year.”

Salakaia-Loto played a match for Australia A last year but missed World Cup selection.

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He said he was hungry to add to his 30 Tests under Schmidt, who has replaced Eddie Jones as Wallabies coach.

“One hundred per cent – that’s definitely one of the big motivators as to why I came home,” he said of potential Test selection.

“But you know, you don’t get to that level if you don’t perform at Super Rugby level – so that’s the goal and that’s the focus.

“Hopefully the performances as a team at the Rebels will lead to guys going on to push for higher honours.”

The future of the cash-strapped Rebels beyond 2024 remains in doubt and Salakaia-Loto admitted the uncertainty was unsettling, but he hoped the players could use it as a driving force.

“It’s put us in a real good position to turn it into a positive as a group,” he said.

“This season is fully in our control and that’s awesome, because it’s in our hands, it’s our fate and we decide our destiny.”

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