Brumbies players Fotu Auelua and Clyde Rathbone boxing during training. Photo: Jeffrey Chan
Fotu Auelua's brutal hits left his opponents trembling in his debut Super Rugby season, but the powerhouse's Wallabies mission is the driving force behind his bid to have a bigger impact next year.
The ACT Brumbies forward hopes his first full pre-season in Canberra will help him reach his goal of breaking into the Australian Test squad next year.
Auelua arrived in Canberra in February just weeks before his first Super Rugby campaign started.
But while most players weighing more than 120 kilograms dread the hard slog in scorching conditions during pre-season, Auelua insists the gut-busting sessions will be the key to his Wallabies dreams.
Auelua has lost six kilograms in five weeks and has trimmed his frame to 117 kilograms.
It's all part of his plan to continue his power game but add endurance to have a greater impact for the Brumbies.
The 28-year-old was an Australian junior star.
But instead of playing in the domestic competition, Auelua started forging his career in France and Japan before returning to Australia.
One of the biggest motivators in leaving the lucrative contracts abroad was a chance to play for the Wallabies.
''I've definitely still got things to prove, the challenge for any rugby player here is to want to put on that gold jersey,'' Auelua said.
''I'm still pursuing that … but it all starts here at the Brumbies.
''I have the same goals as what I did last year and I still feel like I'm in the race.
''If I tick all the boxes I'll have the confidence going into my second year of Super Rugby whereas last year I wasn't aware of the speed and I was a bit scared that I wouldn't last the 80 minutes.
''If I brush that negativity away, that's the key.''
Auelua's Japan contract limited his time to work with the Brumbies in the pre-season last year.
His late arrival prompted coach Jake White to postpone his Super Rugby debut until midway through the season.
He had an immediate impact with his power running and hard-hitting defence.
The challenge he faces now is to be the same physically imposing player despite has weight loss.
''I've dropped down to 110 kilograms before and I just wasn't the same player,'' Auelua said.
''I could go for 80 minutes, but the impact I could have was really limited. Pushing forward and hitting the advantage line is my point of difference … if I can stay heavy but still carry my weight for longer, that suits my game.''
A fully fit and firing Auelua is a frightening prospect for opposition teams in what looms as an imposing forward pack.
All three starting front-rowers - Ben Alexander, Stephen Moore and Dan Palmer - have played for the Wallabies.
Test skipper David Pocock is the marquee recruit, with Ben Mowen, Ita Vaea, Colby Faingaa and Auelua fighting for spots in the back row.
''I think we need to make sure [Auelua] is more consistent and he can last the full Super Rugby competition,'' White said. ''Our forward pack was always going to be strong [next year] - last season was about cutting our teeth. The challenge is what combinations we play together and the make-up isn't necessarily as what it was last season. Who knows what end product we can have.''