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The Wallabies youngster set to go 'beast-mode' against France


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Skipper Michael Hooper got a taste of what Rob Valetini could bring to the Wallabies when he saw him in beast-mode at a training run three years ago.


And he’s expecting him to finally deliver with the Brumbies big man named for his first test start in Australia’s opening clash against France at Suncorp Stadium on Wednesday night.

Valetini, who stands 193cm and weighs 113kg, will wear the No. 6 jersey with Hooper in his usual position at openside flanker and Harry Wilson anchoring the scrum.

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With France loading up on forwards on the bench, signalling their intent to get physical, the Wallabies will need all the muscle they can muster.

Hooper said he’d been “super impressed” by 22-year-old Valetini, who has only played four tests since making his debut in late 2019 due to injury and inconsistent form.

The Melbourne product may have painted a target on his back by last week declaring his belief the Wallabies could be ranked world No. 1 by the end of the year.

“He had a breakout training session in Japan back in 2018 when he came on the spring tour when he just dominated,” Hooper said of the 22-year-old on Tuesday.


“He put a few big shots on a couple of big characters, some other big bodies.

“He’s a physically impressive rugby player, he has an ideal build for a back rower so it’s all ahead of him.

“The confidence is now really visible in his rugby – he was consistently exceptional all year – so it’s exciting for us.”

Hooper said he’d also seen growth in Queenslander Wilson, who made his debut last year and went on to play six tests.


He said that the 22-year-old was now confident enough in his second year to give his captain “stick”.

“Throughout the Trans-Tasman series, in particular, he was playing some really unique football and has an impact on both sides of the ball,” Hooper said of Wilson.

“We’ve got a tight little back row combo.”

Australia have won four of their last five tests against France, although they haven’t played since 2016 when the Wallabies edged the home side 25-23.

Props James Slipper and Allan Alaalatoa are the only players remaining from that 23.

Hooper said they’d been able to do plenty of homework on their opponents despite a number of stars missing from the travelling party.

“The first part of this camp has been to focus on us and our days were super full at the start but we’ve been able to put a bit of time into the French,” the 29-year-old said.

“We’ve focused on guys that have come out which does paint a bit of a different picture because when you do watch a Six Nations then you’ve got guys who aren’t here.

“It’s been a learning learning experience for all of us and I guess there’s going to be a little bit of unknown.”

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The Wallabies youngster set to go 'beast-mode' against France