NRC: Lolesio thrust into 'hot seat' for Vikings against dangerous Drua

NRC
by Emma Greenwood

Canberra coach Nick Scrivener says he has every faith in Junior Wallabies playmaker Noah Lolesio after electing to name the young gun in the "hot seat" for the Vikings' NRC semi-final clash against Fiji on Sunday.

Lolesio started the season in the no.10 jersey but spent time on the sidelines with an achilles injury before being brought back into the team via the bench as Bayley Kuenzle handled the duties at flyhalf.

"Bayley (Kuenzle) has had some time in the saddle which is terrific for him, he's performed well," Scrivener said.

"Noah started the year with us, was playing some good footy, got injured and we rotated him back in through the bench.

Centre Noah Lolesio takes the ball up in the Junior Wallabies' U20 world championship semi-final win over Argentina. Photo: World Rugby

"But I thought this was a good time in terms of a balance of our bench and who I wanted to start and to finish for this particular game, to put Noah back in that hot seat.

"It's a good position to be in, to have guys like that to come into the team."

Kuenzle is likely to play a crucial role though, with Scrivener aware of the Drua's propencity to come home with a wet sail.

"You always make selections with certain tactical considerations and opposition (in mind) but certainly Fiji, they average 19-20 points in the second half of every game they play, they score a lot of points in the second half, so that's part of the thinking in terms of selection, about who you want on the field against a Fiji team that use the ball more in the second half when defences are tight," Scrivener said.

"There's considerations that come on, with who's finishing against teams like Fiji, about who's finishing as much as who starts."

 

The Drua only earnt a place in the finals after desperate late fightbacks against Melbourne and Queensland Country and the Vikings do not want to be the latest team to fall victim to a finishing flurry.

With Kuenzle, capped Wallaby Joe Powell and try-scoring whizz Mack Hansen on the bench, the Vikings can inject plenty of potency.

The Drua will not benefit from the Flying Fijians' early World Cup exit, with national team players unable to filter back into their side.

But coach Senirusi Seruvakula has full confidence in his young guns.

"We are taking one of the youngest teams in the competition and will carry the underdog tag against a tough opponent in the Vikings," Seruvakula told Fiji Rugby.

The Drua are back in the NRC finals hunt after a big win over Sydney. Photo: Sportography

"This Drua team is still a development squad as we have been filling in the vacuum left by our experienced players but they’ve got plenty of fight in them.

"I have trust in this set of players, they have done the job this year by reaching the last four and I hope we can maintain our performance in the weekend."

The Vikings were knocked out of the competition at the semi-final stage in Fiji last year, with the Drua going on to win the NRC title.

While that match won't be uppermost in his players' minds on Sunday, Scrivener said the group had learnt plenty from the

"We lost that game last year, we were up 15 or 17 or a couple of scores ahead and they ran us down in the second half," he said.

 

"What we will definitely take out of that is that we can't switch off against any Fiji team and that lesson was learnt last year.

"As a team we know that a Fijian team is dangerous and you can't switch off at all because they will pile on the points very quickly if you do.

"When they played here in round five, we were out to a lead and they were coming back in that second half.

"So we know the dangers that they can present, the threats that they've got."

Canberra take on the Drua on Sunday, October 20, at Viking Park, kicking off at 3pm AEDT, with the match broadcast LIVE on RUGBY.com.au, Kayo and Fox Sports.