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Rebels lock hungry for Wallabies call-up as future remains uncertain

By AAP
Lukhan Salakaia-Loto of the Rebels. Photo by Daniel Pockett/Getty Images

Lukhan Salakaia-Loto says he will be ready to answer a call from Wallabies coach Joe Schmidt, despite missing the back half of the Super Rugby Pacific season.

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The Melbourne lock had a pin inserted in his foot after fracturing it in mid-April and had hoped to make his return this weekend if the Rebels made the semi-finals.

They were eliminated by the Hurricanes last Saturday, but the 27-year-old said he would be fit for Australia’s July two-Test series against Wales and a one-off match against Georgia.

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It was no coincidence that Melbourne’s dip in form coincided with the injury to Salakaia-Loto, who was regularly among their best players.

Forming a promising line-out with youngster Josh Canham, Salakaia-Loto’s work-rate and general presence around the field helped put the Rebels on the front foot.

Before joining the now-defunct Rebels, 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.

Also able to shift into the back row, 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.

“I haven’t heard from him (Joe), but my thing is just to get back healthy and playing, as I haven’t played in eight or nine weeks,” Salakaia-Loto told AAP.

“I think if you ask anyone the question they would answer the same, that of course they’re good, but I don’t want to do the jersey any disservice.

“Hopefully I can get some minutes into the legs, whether that be club rugby or whatever, I’m sure I will find a way to get some footy.”

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Salakaia-Loto had signed a two-year deal with Melbourne and had settled in with his wife and two daughters, so was saddened to have to find a new club.

“Not yet, still just figuring it all out and digesting what’s happened at the Rebels,” he said when asked of his future plans.

Players from Melbourne and Queensland, who also made a quarter-final exit, have this week off, then some will begin training in their states next week as part of an extended Wallabies train-on squad.

There is a group of 16 from the Western Force and NSW Waratahs training in Sydney this week.

Schmidt is set to whittle down those players and announce his first squad if the Brumbies are eliminated from Super Rugby Pacific, with the semi-finals this weekend.

The squad will assemble in Brisbane from June 24, with the first Test against Wales at Sydney’s Allianz Stadium on July 6.

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1 Comment
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Perthstayer 34 days ago

It would make my year if we signed LSL. I recon he will be a Wallabies diamond.

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Mzilikazi 4 hours ago
Daugunu salvo shows why Wallabies work-rate is everything to Schmidt

Nice article, Brett, and good to be writing about a second win. I think Georgia will be far more testing. Tbh, I have not looked at their touring squad, but at full strength they are a far better and more dangerous team than they were at RWC France. They would have been disappointed they did not perform to full potential there. I think that the WB’s under Joe Schmidt have started soundly. Recovery from a serious setback always takes time. And the Jones era was that and more. I think the arrival of Les Kiss back to his native Qld. is a very positive factor, and the fact that he and Schmidt know each other well is a help. Players I think are much improved this year: Daugunu, who has blossomed with the Rebels, so credit to the coaching unit down there. Am pleased he will come back to the Reds. McReight is said to have put on up to 7 kgs since last season. His work rate has always been good, but it is his carrying into contact that has gone up. Now makes those critical one or two metres post contact very often. Is conceding fewer penalties now as his game matures. Rob Valetini was good last year, but is now a greater force this one. A really punishing ball carrier. Hunter Paisami is now a more controlled player. His carrying into contact is very impressive for an 80 kg man. Interestingly, if you saw Nick Bishops latest article, he has a team for RC with Kerevi at 12. Also Skelton in the team. Not sure if there will be o’seas players as early as RC though….but need them in by the EYOT games.

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