Australia’s rookie star Len Ikitau has revealed his first thought when Dave Rennie messaged him last year to invite him into the Wallabies camp.
Brumbies flanker Jarrad Butler is the man getting in the way of Super Rugby’s most eagerly awaited match-up – and he couldn’t care less.
David Pocock v Michael Hooper.
It’s an epic No.7 showdown sure to speed up Allianz Stadium’s ticket-gate turnstiles when the Brumbies take on the NSW Waratahs on Sunday.
The only problem is that Butler’s red-hot form for the Brumbies means Pocock will have to make his return to the paddock from an ankle injury off the bench.
While Butler credits Pocock in helping him cut it as a Super Rugby backrower, he’s not overly keen to give the “best flanker in the world” his No.7 jersey back without a fight.
“It’s not fun being on the bench. But what can you do? Just keep playing well,” Butler said.
So well has Butler been playing that he’s caught the eye of Wallabies and Waratahs coach Michael Cheika, who earlier this week declared him a shock candidate for the Wallabies’ back row for the Rugby World Cup.
“Yeah, that was really positive. I was really happy about that,” the 23-year-old said.
Butler, Pocock and Hooper all have very different styles as No.7s, which will make Sunday afternoon’s clash all the more interesting.
“I definitely don’t offer what Poey offers. He’s one of the best pilferers in the game,” the Wellington-born flanker said.
“And Hooper is very dynamic with ball carries.
“But I’m not here to compare myself, I’m just going to work hard.”
Pocock, who was injured for the majority of the 2014 season with a second straight ACL knee injury, spent a lot of his rehab time helping build Butler up to the player he is today.
In fact, it was the Wallabies star’s tutelage that persuaded Butler to come to the Brumbies from the Queensland Reds in 2014.
“I knew he’d be really helpful and that’s been the case,” Butler said.
In all likelihood, Brumbies coach Stephen Larkham will inject Pocock back into the starting line-up in the weeks ahead.
There is room for both players, as Butler played alongside Pocock as a No.8 in round one.
But with Ita Vaea now storming around the paddock in his inspirational comeback and Fotu Auelua also back soon, Butler knows he’s in for a fight.
“It will be a week to week thing,” Butler said.
“I’m just going to keep making it hard on Bernie (Larkham).”