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Brutal baptism helps Volavola settle nerves as playmaker

Baptism of fire ... Ben Volavola.

Baptism of fire ... Ben Volavola. Photo: Getty Images

  IF ANYTHING was going to rattle the opening-night nerves of rookie Waratahs five-eighth Ben Volavola it was Robbie Fruean firing down the field, ball in hand.

The Crusaders centre was out to intimidate but in doing so gave Volavola just what he needed in his first start for NSW - a hard and fast reckoning in front of a supportive home crowd.

''I think everyone saw that first run [he made] and I was just belted,'' Volavola said. ''But it was a good taste, I was fortunate to taste that early in the game, it settled me in and got [me] used to the contact and helped me brace myself for other collisions.''

Now encouraged by his first hit-out, Volavola said he was ready to lead the Waratahs in their first regular round game against the Reds in Brisbane next week.

''With the help of the other guys and with the help of the coaches I definitely think I could lead this team,'' he said. ''We're gelling really well, after today we need to get a few combinations right and then we should be right for the season.''

But back to the collisions, of which there were plenty in the 22-year-old's first time steering the Waratahs around the paddock.

Coach Michael Cheika was pleased with how his recruit stood up to the challenge, particularly as Volavola played most of his rugby for Southern Districts at fullback.

''He didn't flinch in the physical battle, so I was happy enough,'' Cheika said. ''He pretty much showed where he's good and where he needs to improve. He's a great instinctive player and he understands how to take a line on, but he's not played a lot as a playmaker in a team … so we're converting him into that role.''

It was not only Volavola's first start in sky blue but also his first game against a long-time hero.

''I've looked up to [Dan Carter] for a couple of years … [it was] a great experience seeing how he controls the game, he looks like he has all the time in the world,'' he said. ''Playing against him for a couple of minutes I learnt a lot.''

Injuries to Bernard Foley and Berrick Barnes accelerated Volavola's passage to starting five-eighth. It wasn't all smooth sailing but the rustiness wasn't confined to the playmaker. His teammates coughed up a good deal of ball in all parts of the field, sending passes high above heads and skudding across the turf.

''It was really intense,'' Volavola said of the first half. ''I was pretty nervous and really shaky but in the second half the boys settled in and made it easy for myself so it was good.''

There is uncertainty over whether Foley, who started at No.10 in the Waratahs' first two trials, will be ready to return for the clash with the Reds.

Hand in hand with his confidence, Volavola is also keenly aware of where he could improve.

''I was really flat in that game, I needed to pull back, not overplay my hand and control the game a lot more,'' he said. ''Playing at fly-half the team looks at you to control the tempo of the game and I learnt that playing against the Crusaders.''

Cheika said there were no further injury concerns, so the focus will be on whether Foley and Barnes are strong enough to play in Brisbane. Volavola said he looked forward to meeting another famous five-eighth, Quade Cooper.

''He's a really different player to what [Carter] is, he plays with a lot of flair and he can sort of just pull something out of nowhere,'' he said. ''It will be interesting to see how I go against him.''


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Rugby World Cup 2015

Round 1
Sat, 19 SepTimes shown AEST
ENG 35vs FJI 11 Report Stats
TGA 10vs GEO 17 Report Stats
IRE 50vs CAN 7 Report Stats
Sun, 20 SepTimes shown AEST
SAF 32vs JPN 34 Report Stats
FRA 32vs ITA 10 Report Stats
SAM 25vs USA 16 Report Stats
WAL 54vs URU 9 Report Stats
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NZL 26vs ARG 16 Report Stats
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SCO 45vs JPN 10 Report Stats
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AUS 28vs FJI 13 Report Stats
FRA 38vs ROM 11 Report Stats
Fri, 25 SepTimes shown AEST
NZL 58vs NAM 14 Report Stats
Sat, 26 SepTimes shown AEST
ARG 54vs GEO 9 Report Stats
ITA 23vs CAN 18 Report Stats
Sun, 27 SepTimes shown AEST
SAF 46vs SAM 6 Report Stats
ENG 25vs WAL 28 Report Stats
AUS 65vs URU 3 Report Stats
SCO 39vs USA 16 Report Stats
Mon, 28 SepTimes shown AEST
IRE 44vs ROM 10 Report Stats
Wed, 30 SepTimes shown AEST
TGA 35vs NAM 21 Report Stats
Fri, 02 OctTimes shown AEST
WAL 23vs FJI 13 Report Stats
FRA 41vs CAN 18 Report Stats
Sat, 03 OctTimes shown AEST
NZL 43vs GEO 10 Report Stats
SAM 5vs JPN 26 Report Stats
Sun, 04 OctTimes shown AEST
SAF 34vs SCO 16 Report Stats
ENG 13vs AUS 33 Report Stats
Mon, 05 OctTimes shown AEDT
ARG 45vs TGA 16 Report Stats
IRE 16vs ITA 9 Report Stats
Wed, 07 OctTimes shown AEDT
CAN 15vs ROM 17 Report Stats
FJI 47vs URU 15 Report Stats
Thu, 08 OctTimes shown AEDT
SAF 64vs USA 0 Report Stats
NAM 16vs GEO 17 Stats
Sat, 10 OctTimes shown AEDT
NZL 14vs TGA 3 Stats
Sun, 11 OctTimes shown AEDT
SAM 0vs SCO 0 00:30St James' Park
AUS 0vs WAL 0 02:45Twic
ENG 0vs URU 0 06:00Manch
ARG 0vs NAM 0 22:00Leicester City Stadium
Mon, 12 OctTimes shown AEDT
ITA 0vs ROM 0 00:30Sand
FRA 0vs IRE 0 02:45MilS
USA 0vs JPN 0 06:00Kholm
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Round 2
Sun, 18 OctTimes shown AEDT
SAF 0vs RUpA 0 02:00Twic
WinC 0vs RUpD 0 06:00MilS
WinD 0vs RUpC 0 23:00MilS
Mon, 19 OctTimes shown AEDT
WinA 0vs RUpB 0 02:00Twic
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WQF1 0vs WQF2 0 02:00Twic
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WQF3 0vs WQF4 0 03:00Twic
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LSF1 0vs LSF2 0 07:00The Stadium, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park
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WSF1 0vs WSF2 0 03:00Twic
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Rugby World Cup 2015
Team P W L D +/- Pts
Australia 3 3 0 0 97 13
Wales 3 3 0 0 58 13
England 3 1 2 0 1 6
Fiji 4 1 3 0 -17 5
Uruguay 3 0 3 0 -139 0
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Rugby World Cup 2015
Team P W L D +/- Pts
South Africa 4 3 1 0 120 16
Scotland 3 2 1 0 40 10
Japan 3 2 1 0 -12 8
Samoa 3 1 2 0 -52 4
USA 3 0 3 0 -96 0
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Rugby World Cup 2015
Team P W L D +/- Pts
New Zealand 3 3 0 0 87 14
Argentina 3 2 1 0 64 10
Georgia 4 2 2 0 -70 8
Tonga 3 1 2 0 -22 6
Namibia 3 0 3 0 -59 1
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Rugby World Cup 2015
Team P W L D +/- Pts
Ireland 3 3 0 0 84 14
France 3 3 0 0 72 14
Italy 3 1 2 0 -24 5
Romania 3 1 2 0 -59 4
Canada 4 0 4 0 -73 2
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