Tom Ross has his sights set on forcing his way into Dan McKellar's match-day squad as the ACT Brumbies prop makes his return from a horror stretch of injuries.
The 21-year-old front-rower has been working his way back onto the field after his frustrating debut Super Rugby season.
A posterior cruciate ligament injury kept him out of action for four months and a bulging disc in his back saw him play limited game-time during the National Rugby Championship.
Ross has put the injury setbacks behind him and is confident he'll be fit and ready for their opening clash against the Queensland Reds in January.
"[My body] is feeling fantastic, actually," Ross said.
"I've gotten out of the phase of feeling sorry for myself around injury, so now it's just working hard and being the best I can be this pre-season. It's ticking the boxes, getting through every training session and doing my best.
"We've been doing a lot of with Lord [Laurie Fisher] and Dan during the pre-season, so I feel that confidence is starting to roll back into my game again.
"My goals for this pre-season has been to get bigger, faster and fitter. I feel like the boys have been putting in and enjoying it."
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Ross made his Super Rugby debut off the bench against the NSW Waratahs in round five this year and went on to play another two matches before injury struck.
He has now set his sights on forcing his way into McKellar's 23-man match-day squad as he prepares to jostle for a place in the finishers with Leslie Leuluaialii-Makin, Harry Lloyd and new recruit Shambeckler Vui.
"The first year involved a lot of learning but now that I've been through the system for 12 months, I feel like I can really compete this year, challenge some of the older boys and have a real crack at trying to get a spot in the 23," Ross said.
"It's been a good challenge in the front row this pre-season. We've got some young guys coming through and Harry Lloyd [is back]. It's good to have him back in the Canberra fold."
Ross expects their training standards to lift again when the Brumbies' Test contingent return to the capital for pre-season next week.
Wallabies Pete Samu and Folau Fainga'a joined the squad on Monday as the Brumbies prepare to ramp up their preparations before the Christmas break.
"The two weeks leading up to Christmas will be quite big," lock Blake Enever said.
"The [Super Rugby] season starts earlier, so we have to get things rolling. Having [the Wallabies] back before Christmas will be massive and the whole squad will start to take shape pretty soon."
Enever is heading into his sixth season with the Brumbies and will have a chance to step into the regular starting XV following the departures of Sam Carter and Rory Arnold.
He'll tussle for a place in the second row with the likes of Darcy Swain and Murray Douglas, while Caderyn Neville and Nick Frost round out the Brumbies' lock stocks.
"There's an opportunity this year, so I'm definitely going to take it with both hands, work hard and really put my hand up for round one," Enever said.
"I don't come into a pre-season lightly and I try to become a better rugby player each time."