Waratahs full back Drew Mitchell is hoping to give Australian rugby a double boost when he lines up against The British & Irish lions this weekend.
Mitchell wants the Sydney-based outfit to give the tourists their toughest test yet at the Allianz Stadium on Saturday.
And in doing just that, the 29-year-old is confident that the Qantas Wallabies will have reason to celebrate just a week away from the start of the three-match Test series.
“If we can go out there and physically test The Lions, hopefully show some weaknesses in their armoury and some weaknesses in the way they play, then that’s going to be a good thing for the Wallabies,” said Mitchell.
“Not only are the Lions preparing for a Test series, the Wallabies are too and the only thing they’ve got to go on is the games The Lions play.
“So if they can gain anything from the game we play, that is tremendous for Australian rugby and hopefully the boys can go on and do the job against The Lions.
“It’s a good opportunity (for the Waratahs). A lot of our guys here have just been pulled out of club rugby for this fixture and, given they will be going up against the best that the northern hemisphere have to offer, it can be daunting to some. But it is a really good opportunity and the more the guys focus on the opportunity side of it rather than how big the task is, we can really test these guys.”
Saturday’s tour game is likely to be Mitchell’s one and only chance to test The Lions after he was again overlooked for an international spot this week.
Australia’s joint third-highest try scorer missed out on a place in Robbie Deans’ initial 25-man squad and wasn’t among his six additional players named on Monday. And when fellow wing Joe Tomane damaged a toe in training and was ruled out of the first Test, Deans called for Luke Morahan rather than Mitchell.
Morahan has just the one cap compared to Mitchell’s 63 but the Reds wideman was rewarded for a stunning solo display for his franchise against The Lions in Brisbane last Saturday.
A similarly fine display by Mitchell might just put him back in the running for a call up if there are further injury issues but Toulon’s summer signing says Saturday is all about a once-in-a-lifetime chance to face Britain and Ireland’s elite rather than an opportunity to remind Deans of his talents.
“To be honest, I’ve kind of stopped worrying about that. It’s always going to be in the back of your mind during the Super Rugby season, you always want to be involved, but there have been a series of selections now and each time I’ve been overlooked,” added Mitchell.
“It’s not really about me trying to play my way into the Wallabies squad with a good performance against The Lions – it’s a good opportunity for me to play against a touring Lions team.
“It may well be my only opportunity, so I would be doing myself an injustice if I started to worry about trying to get further selection.”
So instead of focusing on adding to his impressive tally of Test caps, Mitchell has his heart set on a surprise success with his Super XV side.
The Tahs may be missing a host of big names through national call ups and injury but the availability of club captain Dave Dennis, star centre Rob Horne, first-choice fly-half Bernard Foley and scrum-half Matt Lucas has given the squad a real lift.
And while Mitchell admits that it may be considered a big ask to bring some new faces into the mix and still trouble The Lions, he insists that hard work can make anything possible.
“We’re not here for anything other than trying to get the victory.
“We just want to work hard for each other. The times where we’ve been most disappointed is when we haven’t really turned up and been tight for one another. That is what we expect from one another.
“The more we’re willing to work for each other, the more we’re going to tie up our own ball and hopefully expose some sort of opportunities. So that’s been a really big focus for us.
“You don’t need a whole season to train (together), it’s a mental thing and an attitude thing. If you’re working hard, more often than not something is going to happen.”