One-test wonder Sam Carter is less than a week away from staring down one of the most successful second-row partnerships in world rugby.
The Wallabies rookie has already established himself as one of the toughest forwards around, playing more than 70 minutes of his test debut with an ankle injury that would keep him sidelined for five weeks.
But Carter's true grit has not blinded him to the challenge of going up against an All Blacks pack featuring Sam Whitelock and Brodie Retallick in the second row.
''It's a massive challenge, they're the benchmark with Whitelock and Retallick, they're two very physical, hard-working locks and pretty mobile as well,'' Carter said.
''When you combine that with the back row, they work well together. But if we can do what we've been focusing on doing this week and next week, hopefully we can get up there and match them.''
With just one test match under his belt, Carter is set to be named alongside Rob Simmons in the second row for the first Bledisloe Cup test in Sydney next weekend.
It will be a sensational cementing of the new Wallabies pecking order, if the Brumbies lock is picked ahead of former test captain James Horwill.
The reshuffle might have come earlier, after a knee injury to Simmons saved Horwill's spot in the starting line-up on last year's European tour.
Sitaleki Timani came in then and Horwill stayed put, trying to recapture the form that made him the gold standard of Australian second-rowers in 2010 and 2011.
This year, with Timani in Europe and Kane Douglas announcing his intentions to do the same, coach Ewen McKenzie began blooding the new generation.
Carter, Will Skelton and Luke Jones were ushered in for the three-test series against France, and McKenzie selected the son of former Wallaby David Carter to start ahead of Horwill in the first test and the others off the bench in the final two matches.
Only Jones did not make the cut for the Rugby Championship.
The Wallabies smashed France 50-23 in Brisbane. Carter's performance was acknowledged as a standout success, not least because of the pain he played through after suffering a high ankle sprain in the seventh minute.
''It was OK as long as I kept moving,'' he said. ''But I thought it had taken me so long to get there that I wasn't going to go off in seven minutes.''
He made it back to play three games for the Brumbies at the critical point in their season and is back in camp with the Wallabies, two months after he left.
''It would be a huge honour [to start against New Zealand],'' Carter said. ''You play rugby to test yourself against the best and there's no one better than the All Blacks.
''They've been the top team in the world for the last 10 years and to be part of a team that's growing is very exciting for me as well. Hopefully I can get in and be a part of it.''
If, as expected, McKenzie names Carter and two-test hooker Nathan Charles to start in the Rugby Championship and Bledisloe Cup opener, the Wallabies will be lacking big-match experience in two crucial positions.
But just as Charles will cloak himself in the gold jersey as a ''suit of armour'', Carter said the Wallabies pack would not be intimidated by their world-beating arch rivals.
''It's more focusing on what we need to do to beat them, and giving them respect but not too much respect,'' he said.
''You see that in Super [Rugby] sides sometimes. You can prepare for a game and give them too much respect and you're already beaten before you play the game.
''We're focusing more on what we need to do than what they're going to do to us."
- Sydney Morning Herald
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