Waratahs five-eighth Bernard Foley says the next three weeks will decide who wears the coveted Wallabies' No.10 jersey against France next month.
Test coach Ewen McKenzie will name a 30- or 32-man squad for the three-Test series next Thursday, leaving just one round of Super Rugby for contenders Foley, Quade Cooper and Matt Toomua to stake their claims for inclusion and three before crunch time on selection.
Despite widespread predictions Cooper has a mortgage on the jersey under his former Reds coach, Foley said he believed the race for starting honours was wide open.
"If you're playing the house down then it's hard for them not to pick you ... I'd say it is all still open slather," he said.
"These next three weeks are massive in terms of the whole Wallaby selection environment, but we've got to focus on our game [at the Waratahs]. With the team doing well, hopefully you're playing well and you're putting yourself in a better position to be picked for that."
Last year McKenzie preferred using Cooper and Brumbies five-eighth Toomua in a ball-playing partnership at No.10 and No.12 respectively, until a hamstring injury ended Toomua's season prematurely.
All Blacks great Andrew Mehrtens, who works with Foley once or twice a month as kicking coach at the Waratahs, last week backed the NSW playmaker for a shot at the Test No.10 role in his second year of Test rugby. But Foley remains the least experienced of the trio, despite Cooper's erratic form within a badly flagging Reds outfit.
The former Australian sevens captain acknowledged Cooper's strong performances on the Wallabies' end-of-year tour to Europe would stand the Queenslander in good stead.
"The coaches know Quade's capabilities, he's the incumbent and he did so well at the back end of last year," Foley said. "Every position is very hotly contested, with Matty Toomua as well, so who knows, that puts more focus on the next couple of weeks."
The Waratahs play the Lions in Sydney on Sunday afternoon. The Western Force's win against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein at the weekend cost the Waratahs' their wildcard finals spot, making a win at home crucial this week.
"This block of games is where we can cement ourselves and the belief in ourselves as a team building on what we've done in the past," Foley said. "The Lions really showed this year that they've got nothing to lose and they've come out and played some footy and surprised some teams."
The story Bernard Foley steps up bid for Wallabies' No.10 jersey first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.