Back-row powerhouse Rob Valetini says the ACT Brumbies are ready to start life after David Pocock, confident he can break his injury curse to become a consistent force.
Valetini is expected to be cleared of a chest or rib injury despite being forced off the field after just 35 minutes in the Brumbies' only pre-season trial match.
The one-Test Wallaby landed awkwardly in a confidence-boosting win against the Melbourne Rebels and didn't play the rest of the game as a precaution.
Valetini is a key cog in the Brumbies' hopes of a smooth transition to the post-Pocock era, which will begin in round one against the Queensland Reds on Friday night.
But his career so far has been plagued by injuries, limiting him to 13 Super Rugby games in the past two years.
"All you want to do is get your hands on the ball and play rugby, so yeah the [trial injury] was a bit frustrating again," Valetini said.
"Hopefully it's a bit of a bump and we can push through for round one. I haven't been able to get through a season without getting injured yet.
"I thought last year was going to be the year, so I've got to take care of my body and take care of everything to make sure I can play every week."
Valetini and Pete Samu sent a scare through coach Dan McKellar's back-row plans in Albury as the only two injury concerns at the end of the trial.
Samu played on after copping a stinger on his shoulder and is expected to play against the Reds, while Valetini will be monitored.
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Both will start if they are fit, while Tom Cusack is leading the battle to fill Pocock's No. 7 jersey.
Lachlan McCaffrey will return to Canberra this week after a stint in Japan, while Will Miller impressed in his Brumbies debut and Jahrome Brown is another option.
The Brumbies are well-versed in playing without Pocock given the superstar flanker managed just three games last year because of injury.
But his absence, even as a mentor, is a significant change to the Brumbies' squad.
Valetini says he is making small changes to his life away from rugby to give him the best chance to play every match this year, setting an early bedtime and changing the diet that fuels his monstrous 113 kilogram, 193 centimetre frame.
"It's a mindset thing, and I know I need to take care of my body. Eat right, going to bed at 9 or 10 o'clock, recovery ... they will all help me to stay on the field," Valetini said.
"I'm obviously keen to get some more minutes [for the Wallabies], but here as well. A lot of people have labelled [the Brumbies] as underdogs. I guess we're keen to prove them wrong a bit, step up and help the team.
"I think we can go a long way even though we've lost a lot of leadership and experience."
McCaffrey is expected to be available for selection despite missing the entire Brumbies' pre-season. He is one of three vice-captains in a new-look Brumbies leadership group, joining Joe Powell and Cusack as deputies to skipper Allan Alaalatoa.
"There's a good dynamic there," Cusack said. "Everyone knows what Locky brings and Allan is a tremendous leader. I think there's a good leadership squad around Allan to give him the ability to not get caught in it all. It's exciting."
SUPER RUGBY ROUND ONE
Friday: ACT Brumbies v Queensland Reds at Canberra Stadium, 7.15pm