Wallabies debut changes Rona's outlook

The Rugby Championship
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

A Wallabies debut might just be the tonic to keep Curtis Rona in rugby, regardless of the future of the Western Force

Rona has been among those contemplating his future in rugby with the news the Force is set to be axed from the 2018 Super Rugby competition, with an NRL return in the mix.

That was before his meteoric ascension into the Wallabies ranks, a move he admitted added a different flavour to his decision.

“There's a lot of speculation about me going back to rugby league but I left that to my manager and I'm going to see him today, speak about what we're going to do but pretty confident I'll be playing for an Australian rugby team,” he said.

“You get a little taste and you get a look in and you want a little bit more each time so that's what I want to be striving for.

“It's shone a bit of light on the whole situation with the Force and to be able to play for Australia is going to be massive for me and it's really helped me focus on the now and focus on footy.”

Next year though seems a mile away from the task Rona faces on Saturday, his first Test match, against the All Blacks.

Rona is the only debutant in the Wallabies lineup, and All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said any first-timers ‘could be’ targeted on Saturday.

Should that come to fruition, the 24-year-old said he would be ready.

“They can say whatever they want but I know myself that what I'm capable of doing and I'm feeling really confident coming into this game,” he said.

Rona has the complete confidence of Wallabies coach Michael Cheika, who has a penchant for plucking wingers from the NRL and making them Test players.

“ Curtis has been picked because he's a high-quality player who's really in the camp has really shown a lot of enthusiasm, aggression,” he said.

“He's been hungry to be involved in everything. I'm sure - he's played on the big stage before in rugby league so I'm sure he'll handle it, no problem.”

In some ways, Saturday’s will be a more familiar role for Rona than the centre spot he’s occupied in 14 Super Rugby games, reverting to the wing spot that he starred in at the NRL.

“It's actually been an easier transition actually, because I've spent much more time on the wing in previous years so I'm familiar with that role and knowing where to be, potentially comes like second nature,” he said.

The aerial game from years in the NRL, will be a handy asset for Rona, an element the All Blacks will surely test.

“He's played a lot of time on the wing there in rugby league as well so he's definitely had hies head under plenty of high balls and with a different type of pressure in rugby no doubt with where you're kicking from,” Cheika said.

Outside of the team, New Zealand-born Rona is confident his whole family will be 100 per cent behind the Wallabies on Saturday night as well.

"i think they're going to be wearing the gold jersey come Saturday night, definitely there to support me and my teammates," he said.

The Wallabies take on the All Blacks on Saturday night, kicking off at 8pm AEST, LIVE on FOX SPORTS, Network Ten, WIN and via RUGBY.com.au RADIO. Buy tickets here.