Lukhan Salakaia-Loto feels the upside of coronavirus is the fast-tracking of the Wallabies’ new culture under coach Dave Rennie.
And he’s counting on that translating to the field in Wellington in Sunday’s opening Bledisloe Cup Test against the All Blacks.
Kiwi Rennie, who replaced Michael Cheika, has invested heavily in creating tight connections within the group, with Wallabies players learning more about the traditions and values of their teammates.
“COVID has been a blessing in disguise for us to really gel,” the Queensland loose forward said.
“We’re such a multicultural group and maybe in the past we haven’t really understood one another was well as we should have so he’s (Rennie) worked hard in getting this group to bond and understand each other and make it a level playing field where everyone can speak up.
“The tighter you are off the park the harder you’re going to work for each other and the effort we put in for each other on the field is going to be much stronger.
“Off the field is such a important part of results and gelling as a team.
“You still have to go out and perform but it’s good to be so close – good signs for us.”
Preparing in a quarantine bubble in Christchurch, the players are together almost 24-7 and have been seen online singing and playing games and Salakaia-Loto said there was a lot of energy and excitement within the group.
With new coaches, including Ian Foster at the helm of New Zealand, and coming off domestic competitions, there’s a sense of mystery about Sunday’s battle.
Both sides are expected to blood new players, but Salakaia-Loto said his team couldn’t expect anything less than the best from New Zealand, who have an 18-year stranglehold on the trans-Tasman trophy.
The 23-year-old says he’s been training at both lock and in the back row and is unsure how he will be used against the All Blacks.
“Whether you’ve played 100 tests or no tests, if you get selected you’ve proven yourself worthy enough to throw your respective countries’ jersey on.
“You’re there for a reason and people have backed you.
“We are preparing for a strong All Blacks outfit and that doesn’t change if you’re playing for the first time.”
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