Rob Valetini has vowed to repay the ACT Brumbies and Wallabies for putting faith in his development after the boom rookie signed a two-year Australian rugby contract extension just six games into his career.
The Canberra Times can reveal Valetini is expected to stay in Canberra until at least the end of 2021, giving the Brumbies a timely boost before the young gun takes on an all Wallabies back-row on Friday night.
Valetini, regarded by many as a likely World Cup bolter, has made his mark on Super Rugby despite injuries ruining his debut season last year and limiting to a handful of games sor far.
The powerfully-built 113 kilogram, 193 centimetre back-rower has been earmarked as a future Wallaby since playing his first game in round one last year, prompting Test coach Michael Cheika to invite him to national-team camps.
Valetini's decision to move quickly on a new contract is a massive signing coup for the Brumbies on the eve of their bid to turn around their season when they play the NSW Waratahs in Canberra.
The match gives Valetini a chance to measure himself against one of his main Wallabies rivals, Waratahs blindside flanker Ned Hanigan, as well as Wallabies skipper Michael Hooper and Jack Dempsey.
"The Waratahs have an all-Australian back row. It will be a good test for all of us in the back row to see where we are, hopefully we can go to another level," Valetini said.
"To go up against them, the same guys pushing for the national team, hopefully I can play the best I can and try to push my case forward."
The Brumbies will be without their best player, openside flanker David Pocock, who will miss at least one game because of a calf injury.
It leaves Valetini to team up with Tom Cusack and Lachlan McCaffrey, while Wallaby Pete Samu will be injected from the bench.
But the Brumbies are confident Valetini can rise to the challenge after settling into his new home in the capital after signing his first contract with the Brumbies when he was still at school.
"I wanted to stay here. It feels like home now ... if I was to play rugby anywhere in Australia, I'd stay at the Brumbies," Valetini said.
"It's good to have my future sorted for another two years to spend with these boys. I'm really keen to get to the next level of my rugby. Now I just want to focus on this year and putting the work in, it's exciting times ahead."
The Brumbies will need a five-star performance from Valetini to help them win for just the second time this year after suffering back to back losses.
Karmichael Hunt has been ruled out of the Waratahs side, but the Brumbies are without Pocock and Wallabies tighthead prop Allan Alaalatoa.
The Waratahs have won two of their three games so far this season while the Brumbies have struggled under pressure, particularly in a second-half fade against Melbourne last week.
But captain Christian Lealiifano is confident the team's leaders are better equipped to deal with pressure and momentum changes in the interstate derby against the Waratahs.
"As a leader it's nice to be able to learn from those moment, understanding how it feels and then having a process to be able to cope," Lealiifano said.
"Pressure is always going to come in games, it's how we manage those moments. We're putting some processes in place to connect as a team and just really focus on our jobs.
"It's all between the ears for us. We've got enough skill, talent and work ethic in our team to produce what we need to, it's about finding that consistency in your mind.
"It's been a tough couple of weeks for us but we're looking forward to being back at home and hopefully continuing that history down here."
SUPER RUGBY ROUND FIVE
Friday: ACT Brumbies v NSW Waratahs at Canberra Stadium, 7.45pm. Tickets available from Ticketek.
Brumbies: 1. Scott Sio, 2. Folau Faingaa, 3. Les Leuluaialii-Makin, 4. Rory Arnold, 5. Sam Carter, 6. Rob Valetini, 7. Tom Cusack, 8. Lachlan McCaffrey, 9. Joe Powell, 10. Christian Lealiifano, 11. Lausii Taliauli, 12. Irae Simone, 13. Tevita Kuridrani, 14. Henry Speight, 15. Tom Banks. Reserves:16. Josh Mann-Rea, 17. James Slipper, 18. Tom Ross, 19. Murray Douglas, 20. Pete Samu, 21. Ryan Lonergan, 22. Jordan Jackson-Hope, 23. Mack Hansen.
Waratahs: 1. Harry Johnson-Holmes, 2. Damien Fitzpatrick, 3. Sekope Kepu, 4. Jed Holloway, 5. Rob Simmons, 6. Ned Hanigan, 7. Michael Hooper, 8. Jack Dempsey, 9. Jake Gordon, 10. Bernard Foley, 11. Alex Newsome, 12. Kurtley Beale, 13. Adam Ashley-Cooper, 14. Curtis Rona, 15. Israel Folau. Reserve: 16. Tatafu Polota-Nau, 17. Rory O’Connor, 18. Chris Talakai, 19. Ryan McCauley, 20. Lachlan Swinton, 21. Nick Phipps, 22. Mack Mason, 23. Cam Clark.