Irae Simone felt ‘starstruck’ alongside his Waratahs teammates but the centre might just have to get used to lining up in the sky blue on a regular basis.
Simone, who won last year’s Shute Shield final with Norths and starred for NRC’s Sydney Rays, said he counted himself lucky to be in the Waratahs fold.
The 21-year-old played out the full match in the Waratahs’ 50-47 loss to the Highlanders at Brookvale Oval, and is firming as the frontrunner to fill the no. 12 void left by Kurtley Beale.
Simone played down his chances after the side’s second trial, still pinching himself at the opportunity, an attitude that belied his composed efforts on-field.
“(I’m) pretty star struck,” he said.
“It's a privilege to play again with those guys.
“Having the experience around me helps my game just to develop as a player off the field and on the field." - Irae Simone
Coach Daryl Gibson had plenty of praise for his new recruit, after his second consecutive start.
“It was the first time at that pace, first introduction at this level of what he's going to expect going through the season,” he said.
“He had some nice touches and he would have learned a lot from tonight.”
While he is one of the rookies in the Waratahs outfit, Simone was one of the more familiar with their Brookvale surroundings, after two years with the South Sydney Rabbitohs.
Simone moved to the South Sydney club straight after school, in 2013, before switching over to rugby and working his way up through the Shute Shield competition.
The centre has switched his focus to round one against the Force and making his super 2016 form translate into Super Rugby.
“Our preparation starts now, for next week,” he said.
“Hopefully I do get picked in that team but we're learning combinations amongst each other and we're still learning, which is pretty good, so I think we'll just take it day by day, turn up to training and keep learning.”
Simone’s major competition for the 12 jersey would be David Horwitz, who came on late in the trial pushing Simone to 13 and Israel Folau to fullback.
Gibson has had a decent look at Horwitz at Super Rugby level, with the 22-year-old playing 13 matches in his debut season with the Waratahs.