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Wallabies' breakout star preparing for backline competition

By Tom Vinicombe
Len Ikitau. (Photo by Jeremy Ward/Photosport)

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Len Ikitau has begun preparations for his first Super Rugby season post his test rugby debut.

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Ikitau had been a left-field call-up to the Australia national team in 2020 but wasn’t able to take the field in the green and gold jersey. While many were surprised at his initial selection, with the young midfielder having earned just one start for the Brumbies that season, his return to the squad last year was far more telegraphed.

In 2021, Ikitau started all 15 of the Brumbies’ matches throughout their Super Rugby AU and Trans-Tasman campaigns, regularly impressing with his defensive reads and powerful left foot.

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His long-awaited test debut came off the bench in the second game of the Wallabies’ three-match series with France in July and after being entrusted with the No 13 jersey for the series-decider a week later, the 23-year-old never looked back. Come the end of the season, Ikitau had notched up 12 appearances for the Wallabies and had well and truly proved himself as one of the world’s best test debutants for the year.

Now, after his first full campaign as an international rugby player, Ikitau is set for another big season with the Brumbies and is back in camp with the Super Rugby side ahead of their first pre-season match of 2022.

“I’ve really enjoyed [being back], seeing all the boys, the coaches,” Ikitau told media on Thursday. “It looks like the boys are ready to rip in next week against the Tahs and hopefully we get the opportunity to play.”

The Brumbies finished second in last year’s AU competition, eventually falling to the Reds in the grand final, but were regularly outplayed in the Trans-Tasman portion of the season, securing just a solitary win over the Hurricanes.

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With the likes of Ikitau, Tom Wright and Noah Lolesio all enjoying ample minutes on the international stage in 2021, plus the arrivals or former Wallabies Jesse Mogg and Chris Feauai-Sautia, there will be plenty of competition within the backline which should push the team to better and brighter things.

“There’s a lot of Wallabies in the backline but if you’re not performing then I guess you don’t deserve the opportunity to play,” Ikitau said.

“I feel like the boys are putting pressure on each other to train at your best and then hopefully get picked for the team. It’s a good competition, there’s a lot of new boys and everybody’s ready to rip in.”

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For Ikitau himself, however, there’s still plenty of work that needs to be done ahead of the Brumbies’ season-opener against the Western Force in Perth – thanks, in part, to his late return to the pre-season camp due to his extended test campaign last year.

“I had two weeks of quarantine so I guess that didn’t really help with the fitness,” he said. “But I guess for me, it’s more just coming back, getting some metres under the legs and just getting the contact part of it back and just ripping into training each and every week.

“It’s just a little bit of everything. Just trying to get the body right before we start another big season. I know that I’ll get there by the start of Round 1 but at the moment I’m just chipping away at training and just putting my best foot forward.”

The inaugural season of the re-branded Super Rugby Pacific competition kicks off on February 18, with new side Moana Pasifika hosting the Blues at Mt Smart Stadium in Auckland.

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