Isaac Thompson has been named in the Vikings squad for 2015 (Image: Getty)
All seven John I Dent Cup sides will be represented in this year’s Buildcorp National Rugby Championship (NRC) after the University of Canberra Vikings named a 37-man squad ahead of the 2015 season.
Four-time defending champions Tuggeranong Vikings have 18 representatives in the side. Royals, who will take on Vikings in this Saturday’s John I Dent Cup Grand Final have three.
Gunghalin Eagles will have four club representatives in the side. Wests, Uni-Norths and Easts have three while Queanbeyan has two.
“These guys have made a name for themselves in a tough competition,” said Director of Rugby Dan McKellar.
“The law variations in NRC suit the style of play many of these guys play week-in week-out.
“Selecting this squad meant we had to make some tough decisions, but overall I think we’ve got a team that will seriously compete for the title.
The only player yet to join a John I Dent Cup is five-eighth/fullback Mitch Third who has been selected for UC Vikings from Brisbane club side Sunnybank.
Five other John I Dent Cup players have been listed with the squad but are unavailable for selection or injured.
“We obviously wanted to see these guys in action, but that’s part of football,” McKellar said.
The Vikings finished the inaugural NRC with two wins, two draws and four losses and are hoping to improve on those results in 2015.
“We’ve set ourselves the goal of winning this competition and I think this squad will definitely put us in the mix this season,” McKellar said.
“We have some very experienced players, and some up and coming talents that are set to make their mark on Super Rugby in the coming years.
“The NRC is a great way to showcase the talents of players who are on the verge of beginning professional careers.
“If you look at someone like Rory Arnold, he came into the NRC last season after a few years in semi-professional competitions in Queensland and South Africa.
“His performances for the UC Vikings in 2014 were backed up with a standout rookie Super Rugby season with the Brumbies and selection in the Wallabies training squad.”
The 2015 UC Vikings NRC squad has 20 players with Super Rugby experience.
Former Queensland Reds players Aidan Toua and Albert Anae and Brumbies players Ita Vaea and Ben Alexander are among the faces fans will recognise from Super Rugby.
“Fans love the way Ita plays, he’s a real talent and I’m sure ACT rugby fans will love seeing him run out for the UC Vikings,” Head Coach Brad Harris said.
“Aidan and Albert have returned to Australia from Europe to link with the Brumbies and will be keen to make an impression through the NRC.
“Benny is one of Australia’s best front-rowers and adds a level of experience we probably lacked in the forwards last year.
“The younger players will gain a lot from having these guys around, not only on the field, but also in the gym and at training.”
Christian Lealiifano, Henry Speight and Joe Tomane are the Wallabies players allocated to the Vikings. They may feature in a number of games throughout the season, depending on national selection.
The UC Vikings have the bye in the first round of the 2015 Buildcorp NRC and will officially begin their campaign in round two against the NSW Country Eagles in Sydney.
The side’s first match at Vikings Park will be on Saturday, 5 September against the Greater Sydney Rams.
University of Canberra Vikings 2015 playing squad and local clubs:
Leslie Leulua’iali’i-Makin, Prop, Queanbeyan
Ben Alexander, Prop, Uni-Norths
Tyrell Lomax, Prop, Tuggeranong
Albert Anae, Hooker, Easts
Robbie Abel, Hooker, Royals
Connal McInerney, Hooker, Tuggeranong
Allan Alaalatoa, Prop, Uni-Norths
Phil Kite, Prop, Tuggeranong
Sione Talua, Prop, Tuggeranong
Rory Arnold, Lock, Gungahlin
Blake Enever, Lock, Easts
Gareth Clouston, Lock, Tuggeranong
Dave McKern, Lock, Wests
Jordan Smiler, Breakaway, Easts
Dean Oakman-Hunt, Breakaway, Tuggeranong
Michael Oakman-Hunt, Breakaway, Tuggeranong
Rowan Perry, Breakaway, Tuggeranong
Dan Penca, Breakaway, Queanbeyan
Ita Vaea, Breakaway / No 8, Gungahlin
Jarrad Butler (c), No 8, Tuggeranong
Joe Powell, Halfback, Tuggeranong
Brent Hamlin, Halfback, Royals
Mitch Third, No 10 / Fullback, TBC
Christian Lealiifano*, No 10 / Centre, Tuggeranong
Rod Iona, No 10 / Centre, Tuggeranong
Jerome Nuimata, Winger, Tuggeranong
Lausii Taliauli, Winger, Royals
Jake Rakic, In Centre, Tuggeranong
James Dargaville, In Centre, Gungahlin
Frankie Fainifo, Out Centre, Tuggeranong
Nigel Ah Wong, Out Centre, Tuggeranong
Henry Speight*, Wing / Out Centre, Gungahlin
Jake Knight , Winger, Tuggeranong
Ratu Tagive, Winger, Wests
Joe Tomane*, Winger, Uni-Norths
Isaac Thompson, Fullback / No 10, Tuggeranong
Aidan Toua, Fullback, Wests