Canberra Vikings coach Nick Scrivener hopes rising star Tom Ross will keep his head down and focus on the task at hand after he was named in the Vikings starting XV for this weekend’s clash.
The Gungahlin Eagles prop has been selected for his first start for the Canberra Vikings against the NSW Country Eagles this Sunday (23 September) in what has been an incredible year for the 20-year-old.
In 2018, the prop represented his country at the World Rugby U20 Championships in France, signed a wider training squad contract with the Brumbies and claimed the award for ACT’s U20 Player of the Year.
Last year, Ross was stuck on his couch recovering from a serious knee reconstruction, doubting whether he would be able to play at the same level ever again. 12 months on and the Junior Wallaby has a chance to stake his claim for the Viking’s starting spot with Leuluaialii-Makin out for some weeks with a calf tear.
The 20-year-old has come off the bench for the past three matches and his influence off the bench in the Vikings win over the Western Force was vital.
“I thought Tom’s involvement for us last week was great. When he came on, we got a scrum penalty straight away,” Scrivener said.
“He is a good young player and this weekend is going to be really good for him. It is a really big step when he goes up against Paddy Ryan and other experienced players from the start. As a young guy, starting at tighthead prop is a big responsibility in every team, but I suppose that is why he has been identified by the Brumbies as a guy with big potential.”
Scrivener urged his young charge not to be distracted by the talk of his vast potential and encouraged Ross to use his time in the NRC as a stepping stone to greater things.
“When he gets these responsibilities in big games against good opposition, it is going to help him. He has got some good guys around him and I am really looking forward to ripping in on Sunday,” he said.
“He has potential. Guys that are good when they are young go on to have a long career and good young props are well-sought after. The opportunities are there for him and starting this weekend is an opportunity for him. Whatever happens in the future is going to stem from these opportunities and experiences.
“He shouldn’t be looking too far ahead. This is the next step.”
Ross is one of several changes to the Vikings squad, which has won the past two games in a row in the short seven-week season.
The Vikings will be missing some of their international contingent for their trip to Armidale, with Tom Banks and Folau Fainga’a being named in the Wallabies squad for the South African and Argentinian legs of the Rugby Championship.
Canberra does get the benefit of Joe Powell’s omission from the Aussie touring group, with Michael Cheika electing to give Powell valuable game time with the Vikings, as the young halfback continues his development.
Irae Simone gets his first chance to start at outside-centre, Ross’ junior Wallabies teammate Mack Hansen will start at fullback and Rob Valetini will move to the No. 6 jersey.
Canberra currently sits third on the table and will look to keep their momentum going as the season nears the halfway mark.
NRC ROUND FOUR
NSW Country Eagles v Canberra Vikings at UNE Bellevue Oval, Armidale, 1 pm, Sunday (23 September)
Vikings: 1. Sione Taula, 2. Connal McInerney, 3. Tom Ross, 4. Blake Enever, 5. Darcy Swain, 6. Rob Valetini, 7. Michael Oakman-Hunt, 8. Ben Hyne, 9. Joe Powell, 10. Wharenui Hawera, 11. Andy Muirhead, 12. Jordan Jackson-Hope, 13. Irae Simone, 14. Lausii Taliauli, 15. Mack Hansen. Reserves: 16. Josh Mann-Rea, 17. Vunipola Fifita, 18. Max Bode, 19. BJ Edwards, 20. Brodie Leber, 21. Ryan Lonergan, 22. Noah Lolesio, 23. Len Ikitau.