Injuries and unexpected departures have opened the door for Darcy Swain to launch a shock bid for a Wallabies jersey when Super Rugby restarts next week.
Swain is one of the only second-rowers left standing in Canberra and is set to team up with Murray Douglas in the starting side when the ACT Brumbies host the Melbourne Rebels in round one.
Australian rugby is coming to grips with a lock exodus over the past 12 months, with Queensland outcasts Izack Rodda and Harry Hockings joining Rory Arnold, Sam Carter, Luke Jones, Adam Coleman and Will Skelton in moving their careers abroad.
Rodda and Hockings refused to agree to reduced wages in Queensland, but there is strong speculation Rodda is keen to link with the Brumbies next season if a deal can be struck.
The presence of Rodda, Hockings and Jones at the start of the year made it unthinkable Swain would be a Wallabies bolter given he had played just 13 games before this season.
But the upheaval could catapult him into Dave Rennie's squad if he can dominate the domestic competition, which will give Swain a chance to prove his worth in an Australian derby every weekend.
The former Australian junior representative will be crucial to the Brumbies' hopes after their lock stocks suffered during the coronavirus shutdown.
It can be revealed Nick Frost has a foot injury and won't be out of his moon boot until the end of the week, while Caderyn Neville (ankle) has been ruled out for the first month and Blake Enever was released from his contract this week on compassionate grounds.
Swain and Scottish second-rower Murray Douglas are fit, while the Brumbies have recruited Ben Hyne from the defunct Sunwolves and academy prospect Tom Hooper is also training strongly.
"It's hard when you come into units and we need numbers [to do lineout training]," Swain said. "Benny Hyne has come across and is really filling that role, unfortunately [Enever] left ... we were all close to him so it was hard to see him go.
"Tommy Hooper is going well, too. He flogged everyone in the 1.2 kilometre [time trial], the big fella can move.
"It's a really big opportunity for everyone to put their hands up and try to stake [a claim] for a Wallabies jersey.
"It's an opportunity for me to put my hand up as well and try to keep a spot [in the Brumbies'] starting team. Fingers crossed I can do that."
The Brumbies are hoping the bulk of their squad will be available for selection for the clash against the Rebels. Tom Banks (foot), Scott Sio (hand), Folau Faingaa (foot) and Allan Alaalatoa (arm) have all overcome injuries and are ready for the rebooted competition, but Neville and Frost are unlikely starters.
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Swain had his injury troubles this year, playing just three of six games before the season was stopped in March. Brumbies coach Dan McKellar views Swain as a key piece of his forward-pack puzzle for the coming years, stepping up to fill the giant-sized shoes of Arnold and former skipper Carter.
Arnold was the tallest player in Australian rugby history, while Carter was a lineout general and helped the Brumbies form one of Super Rugby's strongest set pieces.
Swain, 22, impressed after making his debut in 2018 and was the starting lock before injury slowed his rise this season.
Swain was initially left out of Rennie's players of national interest squad, but the Wallabies will desperate for locks at the end of the year and Swain says he's ready to take his chance.
"With the departure of Izack Rodda, who was a prominent lock and held down a Wallabies jersey for a while and a lot of older guys leaving ... it does put a big emphasis on the next generation of not just locks, but players in general," Swain said.
"There's a big opportunity for everyone and personally I see it as an opportunity. I'll just put my best foot forward and see what happens.
"It would be good to get in there ... I've just got to work on holding my spot at Brums and then push for that later."
SUPER RUGBY AU ROUND ONE
July 4: ACT Brumbies v Melbourne Rebels at Canberra, 7.15pm