Rebels lock hungry for Wallabies call-up as future remains uncertain

Lukhan Salakaia-Loto says he will be ready to answer a call from Wallabies coach Joe Schmidt, despite missing the back half of the Super Rugby Pacific season.

The Melbourne lock had a pin inserted in his foot after fracturing it in mid-April and had hoped to make his return this weekend if the Rebels made the semi-finals.

They were eliminated by the Hurricanes last Saturday, but the 27-year-old said he would be fit for Australia’s July two-Test series against Wales and a one-off match against Georgia.

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It was no coincidence that Melbourne’s dip in form coincided with the injury to Salakaia-Loto, who was regularly among their best players.

Forming a promising line-out with youngster Josh Canham, Salakaia-Loto’s work-rate and general presence around the field helped put the Rebels on the front foot.

Before joining the now-defunct Rebels, Salakaia-Loto spent last year with English club Northampton, which he said helped him evolve as a player and person after nine seasons with Queensland.

Also able to shift into the back row, Salakaia-Loto played a match for Australia A last year but missed World Cup selection.

He said he was hungry to add to his 30 Tests under Schmidt, who has replaced Eddie Jones as Wallabies coach.

“I haven’t heard from him (Joe), but my thing is just to get back healthy and playing, as I haven’t played in eight or nine weeks,” Salakaia-Loto told AAP.

“I think if you ask anyone the question they would answer the same, that of course they’re good, but I don’t want to do the jersey any disservice.

“Hopefully I can get some minutes into the legs, whether that be club rugby or whatever, I’m sure I will find a way to get some footy.”

Salakaia-Loto had signed a two-year deal with Melbourne and had settled in with his wife and two daughters, so was saddened to have to find a new club.

“Not yet, still just figuring it all out and digesting what’s happened at the Rebels,” he said when asked of his future plans.

Players from Melbourne and Queensland, who also made a quarter-final exit, have this week off, then some will begin training in their states next week as part of an extended Wallabies train-on squad.

There is a group of 16 from the Western Force and NSW Waratahs training in Sydney this week.

Schmidt is set to whittle down those players and announce his first squad if the Brumbies are eliminated from Super Rugby Pacific, with the semi-finals this weekend.

The squad will assemble in Brisbane from June 24, with the first Test against Wales at Sydney’s Allianz Stadium on July 6.

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