WHEN Reds flier Ben Tapuai got off the plane from Europe following last year's Wallabies Spring Tour, one of the first things he did was return to training with his Queensland teammates.
As one of the squad's Australian representatives, he was not required at Ballymore for the first few weeks of the pre-season.
But off his own back he chose to return to the coalface.
He says his reasoning was twofold: "I didn't really have much to do," he said, and foremost he knew competition for starting spots in the Reds backline would be ferocious this year.
Unfortunately for Ewen McKenzie three does not go into two, but that is the equation the Reds mentor is facing.
He has three Australian-capped centres on his books in Tapuai, Anthony Faingaa and Mike Harris.
Throw in smoky Jono Lance, who has seven Super Rugby games to his credit, and the No.12 and No.13 jerseys will be two of the most tightly contested in the squad.
The Reds' two-pre-season games, including their clash with the Chiefs on the Sunshine Coast on February 8, will be telling in who gains a foothold in the starting 15.
"I guess there are three other candidates for the position," Tapuai said.
"There's Mike, Anthony, Jono Lance and myself. We're all professional players and we're all mates and we're all after that same jersey.
"It's up to Ewen who gets the spot and I can only do what I can do and train as hard as I can."
Tapuai described the competition for spots as healthy, adding that he was being spurred on by the standards being set by his teammates.
"I think that's a good thing, competition," he said.
"It's what pushes all of us. We've all got different skills. We're not the same players, we have to work on our weaknesses. Everyone has a job to do and we all want to make ourselves better players."