Pete Samu is a handy addition to the starting XV, while McKellar can call on Murray Douglas at blindside flanker and wider training squad addition Jahrome Brown.
“I’m just focusing on this week, I think it’s more of a day by day thing to see how it pulls up closer to Sunday,” Alaalatoa said.
“I’m on track. I missed that big game [against NSW], I was on the sideline running water so I was still a part of the game somehow. It was hard to watch, I’m happy the boys went out there and put on a good performance, backed up with good prep [on Monday].
“We have to refocus now on the Queensland Reds who showed a lot of spark and guts to come back and win against the Sunwolves in Japan. They have a lot to prove.”
“We don’t have the biggest expectations from around but we know how good we can be,” Sio said.
“We’re keeping our expectations high and our standards high in and around our team. In that year, boys were challenging each other at Super Rugby level and really pushing the envelope there for selection. I see this year has already started off in the same way.
“You have to know where you want to go. The important thing is to remind yourself of the steps to get there. We all know playing well in Super Rugby is going to be a [factor in] us banding together and getting the combinations right at Test level.”
A clash with Samoa will hold extra significance for Alaalatoa and Sio, whose fathers were part of the Western Samoa side that beat Wales on the way to the 1991 World Cup quarter-finals.
Alaalatoa laughs his father probably still has that jersey hanging up in the wardrobe and he wouldn’t be surprised if he tries it on in front of the mirror – but “there’s no way he’s fitting in that ‘91 jersey now”.
“Growing up you have your old man in your ear telling you how good it was playing in the World Cup for Samoa,” Alaalatoa said.
“Then your older brother plays for Samoa in the 20s and then you get an opportunity to play for Australian Schoolboys coming through the ranks.
“I was obviously going to be extremely blessed no matter what country I represent. Living in Australia, I was truly grateful to represent Australia.”
Caden Helmers is a sports reporter for The Canberra Times