Wallabies prop Scott Sio says the presence of front-row rival James Slipper will help him become a better player this year as the ACT Brumbies work together to spark World Cup hopes.
Sio and Slipper started their loosehead prop tag-team combination in the opening round of the Super Rugby season and will put it to the test again against the Waikato Chiefs on Saturday night.
Sio, who is locked in contract negotiations with the Brumbies, said Australian sides were ready to show they can regularly compete with New Zealand opponents after breaking a losing streak last season.
Former Queensland captain Slipper's arrival in Canberra has given the Brumbies world-class front-row depth as well as giving coach Dan McKellar an opportunity to manage the workloads of both players.
Sio was rested from pre-season trials as per instructions from Wallabies coaches and started on the bench in round one because of his lack of game time.
"I've created a good partnership with Slips here already [and] we had that a couple of years ago [in the Wallabies]," Sio said.
"It's good to see him back in Super Rugby and plying his trade. It's a good challenge for me to keep competing and re-earn my spot in the starting team.
"As any rugby player would say, you need a competitive environment to keep growing and learning. That's what I've been doing this year ... seeing where I can keep growing to be at my best for the team."
The Brumbies were stunned by the Melbourne Rebels in round one, falling 34-27 at Canberra Stadium and now facing the daunting task of playing back to back games against New Zealand rivals.
The Brumbies haven't beaten the Chiefs since 2014, although they did win two games against the Hamilton-based side in that season.
Australian rugby endured an almost two-year drought against Kiwi opponents until ending their trans-Tasman woes towards the end of last season.
The Brumbies are also facing selection headaches with David Pocock (concussion) and Toni Pulu (fractured cheek) ruled out, and Henry Speight racing the clock to be fit.
"The reason why New Zealand teams have had so much success is because they win consistently against teams from Australia and South Africa," Sio said.
"The only way to settle the debate is to make sure all four Australian teams are winning consistently against the different countries in Super Rugby.
"We take each opposition for what they are and believe in what we're doing and trying to achieve as a group."
Sio will be a key man in the Wallabies' set piece at the World Cup in Japan later this year after starting in 36 of his past 39 Tests since 2016.
He is also a key man for the Brumbies and their long-term plans, with the club initiating talks with his management in the hope of finalising a contract extension.
The 27-year-old has played 85 games for the Brumbies since making his debut in 2012 and said he wants to stay at the club for the coming years.
"I'm just letting things play out this year, focus on footy and when the time is right, I'll know what I want to do," Sio said.
"I love this club and obviously I'd love to be here long term. But a lot of things need to go into place for that to eventuate. I'm not pushing anything, just enjoying it and making sure I get off on the right foot in the early rounds."
SUPER RUGBY ROUND TWO
Saturday: ACT Brumbies v Waikato Chiefs at Canberra Stadium, 7.45pm. Tickets available from Ticketek.