Allan Alaalatoa says a Super Rugby revamp will reignite interstate rivalries and Wallabies selection battles from the opening whistle as he prepares to lead the ACT Brumbies into a new era.
The Brumbies will relaunch their season when they host the Melbourne Rebels in a Super Rugby AU showdown at Canberra Stadium on Saturday night.
Franchises have split from the globe-trotting Super Rugby format with Rugby Australia creating a 10-round season filled with interstate derbies.
Alaalatoa says a new format combined with a new national coaching set-up will raise the stakes and leave teams with everything to play for as they step into the unknown.
"Every game in this comp is going to be a final. It gives everyone an opportunity to push for higher honours," Alaalatoa said.
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"[Wallabies coach] Dave Rennie has noted he is going to pick on form, and you're playing in a comp where you're [playing] the best in the country, and that's where you want to challenge yourself.
"In terms of our squad, we've got a lot of young guys who are stepping up to the plate and we have experienced boys who also have to put up their hand for higher honours.
"It's great for the Wallabies selectors to get a feel for the talent we've got here in Australia."
The Brumbies will field an all-Wallabies front-row against a Rebels backline laden with international experience in front of 1500 fans in the capital.
The ACT government is taking small steps in easing restrictions amid the COVID-19 pandemic which means clubs are bracing for a slow build before stadiums can operate at their full capacity.
But 26-year-old Alaalatoa says even a small crowd will be a huge boost given there were days he and his teammates thought their season was over during a shutdown period.
"It does feel strange. You're getting all those memories. This time last year we were over in Argentina, and it was towards the back end of the year," Alaalatoa said.
"We're only just starting a new comp this year. The motivation comes from being grateful for the opportunity we have been given to play again.
"There was a lot of uncertainty early in the year and we weren't sure when we were going to get the opportunity to wear the Brumbies jersey again or to play in front of our fans again.
"It's going to be a tough game as we all know, they've got some quality players in their forward pack and the backline. Everyone is just excited to be back.
"Everyone has been ripping in."
SUPER RUGBY AU ROUND ONE
Saturday: ACT Brumbies v Melbourne Rebels at Canberra Stadium, 7.15pm.
Brumbies: 1. James Slipper, 2. Folau Faingaa, 3. Allan Alaalatoa, 4. Darcy Swain, 5. Murray Douglas, 6. Rob Valetini, 7. Tom Cusack, 8. Pete Samu, 9. Joe Powell, 10. Noah Lolesio, 11. Tom Wright, 12. Irae Simone, 13. Tevita Kuridrani, 14. Andy Muirhead, 15. Mack Hansen. Reserves. 16. Connal McInerney, 17. Scott Sio, 18. Tom Ross, 19. Tom Cusack, 20. Lachlan McCaffrey, 21. Issak Fines, 22. Bayley Kuenzle, 23. Len Ikitau.
Rebels: 1. Matt Gibbon, 2. Jordan Uelese, 3. Pone Fa'amausili, 4. Matt Philip, 5. Michael Stolberg, 6. Josh Kemeny, 7. Richard Hardwick, 8. Michael Wells, 9. Ryan Louwrens, 10. Matt To'omua, 11. Marika Koroibete, 12. Billy Meakes, 13. Reece Hodge, 14. Andrew Kellaway, 15. Dane Haylett-Petty. Reserves: 16. Efitusi Maafu, 17. Cameron Orr, 18. Jermaine Ainsley, 19. Trevor Hosea, 20. Esei Haangana, 221. Rob Leota, 22. Frank Lomani, 23. Andrew Deegan.