Showtime: Brumbies and Canberra Vikings player Rodney Iona is keen to make the most of his chance in the No.10 jersey this weekend. Photo: Jay CronanCanberra Vikings playmaker Rodney Iona will be out to take advantage of Brumbies star Christian Lealiifano’s absence when he lines up at flyhalf on Saturday against NSW Country.
Lealiifano has been named in the Barbarians squad to play Samoa in London on Saturday, opening the door for Iona to stake a claim for the No.10 jumper during the National Rugby Championship.
Iona struggled for opportunities during the 2015 Super Rugby season, but said he was eager to show his skills in the Vikings’ first match of the NRC season.
“I’ve been training at flyhalf the whole year, and getting the chance to work under Stephen Larkham, Matt Toomua and Christian Lealiifano, it’s been great,” he said.
“It’s good to put my skill-set out in the national competition. It would be good to have Christian there but he’s obviously doing his things with the World XV so it’s just another opportunity to showcase what I’ve got and what I can do at 10.”
NSW Country is coming off a narrow 32-31 win against big brother Greater Sydney Rams, while the Vikings were forced to watch from the sidelines with an opening round bye.
But Iona said the squad was put through its paces with a challenging training session on Saturday to replicate a match.
“We’re very excited, it’s that point where we just want to get out there and play already.
“We took a positive out of the bye, trained hard and grabbed the opportunity to work on combinations.”
Vikings lock Blake Enever agreed with Iona, and believes the bye had given the side an extra week of preparation.
“Knowing we had the bye was beneficial to the whole team,” Enever said.
“The other teams played 80 minutes but hopefully we’ll be a bit fresher and we still had a big day so we should be right to go.”
Enever enjoyed a breakout season with the Brumbies, playing 11 matches after fellow lock Sam Carter was injured.
After playing with Queensland Country last year, Enever said there was an encouraging mix of Super Rugby players and club players in the Vikings squad.
“I’m really enjoying the set up, it’s exciting – there’s a good bunch of blokes coming from clubs, and we’ve got a good amount of players coming from our Super squad so I think it’s a good balance.”
NRC round two: NSW Country Eagles v Canberra Vikings at Woollahra Oval, Sydney, 3pm