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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 0vs FJI 0 05:00Twic
TGA 0vs GEO 0 21:00Kholm
IRE 0vs CAN 0 23:30MilS
Sun, 20 SepTimes shown AEST
SAF 0vs JPN 0 01:45Brig
FRA 0vs ITA 0 05:00Twic
SAM 0vs USA 0 21:00Brig
WAL 0vs URU 0 23:30MilS
Mon, 21 SepTimes shown AEST
NZL 0vs ARG 0 01:45Wemb
Wed, 23 SepTimes shown AEST
SCO 0vs JPN 0 23:30Kholm
Thu, 24 SepTimes shown AEST
AUS 0vs FJI 0 01:45MilS
FRA 0vs ROM 0 05:00Olym
Fri, 25 SepTimes shown AEST
NZL 0vs NAM 0 05:00Olym
Sat, 26 SepTimes shown AEST
ARG 0vs GEO 0 01:45Kholm
ITA 0vs CAN 0 23:30Ella
Sun, 27 SepTimes shown AEST
SAF 0vs SAM 0 01:45Villa
ENG 0vs WAL 0 05:00Twic
AUS 0vs URU 0 21:00Villa
SCO 0vs USA 0 23:30Ella
Mon, 28 SepTimes shown AEST
IRE 0vs ROM 0 01:45Wemb
Wed, 30 SepTimes shown AEST
TGA 0vs NAM 0 01:45Sand
Fri, 02 OctTimes shown AEST
WAL 0vs FJI 0 01:45MilS
FRA 0vs CAN 0 05:00stadium:mk
Sat, 03 OctTimes shown AEST
NZL 0vs GEO 0 05:00MilS
SAM 0vs JPN 0 23:30stadium:mk
Sun, 04 OctTimes shown AEST
SAF 0vs SCO 0 01:45St James' Park
ENG 0vs AUS 0 06:00Twic
Mon, 05 OctTimes shown AEDT
ARG 0vs TGA 0 00:30KPS
IRE 0vs ITA 0 02:45Olym
Wed, 07 OctTimes shown AEDT
CAN 0vs ROM 0 02:45KPS
FJI 0vs URU 0 06:00stadium:mk
Thu, 08 OctTimes shown AEDT
SAF 0vs USA 0 02:45Olym
NAM 0vs GEO 0 06:00Sand
Sat, 10 OctTimes shown AEDT
NZL 0vs TGA 0 06:00St James' Park
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 22:00KPS
Mon, 12 OctTimes shown AEDT
ITA 0vs ROM 0 00:30Sand
FRA 0vs IRE 0 02:45MilS
USA 0vs JPN 0 06:00Kholm
View All Fixtures
Round 2
Sun, 18 OctTimes shown AEDT
WinB 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
Sun, 25 OctTimes shown AEDT
WQF1 0vs WQF2 0 02:00Twic
Mon, 26 OctTimes shown AEDT
WQF3 0vs WQF4 0 03:00Twic
Sat, 31 OctTimes shown AEDT
LSF1 0vs LSF2 0 07:00Olym
Sun, 01 NovTimes shown AEDT
WSF1 0vs WSF2 0 03:00Twic
View All Fixtures
Rugby World Cup 2015
Overall standings
Team P W L D +/- Pts
France 0 0 0 0 0 0
New Zealand 0 0 0 0 0 0
Canada 0 0 0 0 0 0
Tonga 0 0 0 0 0 0
Japan 0 0 0 0 0 0
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Rugby World Cup 2015
Overall standings
Team P W L D +/- Pts
Romania 0 0 0 0 0 0
Argentina 0 0 0 0 0 0
England 0 0 0 0 0 0
Georgia 0 0 0 0 0 0
Scotland 0 0 0 0 0 0
View all
Rugby World Cup 2015
Overall standings
Team P W L D +/- Pts
Australia 0 0 0 0 0 0
USA 0 0 0 0 0 0
Italy 0 0 0 0 0 0
Ireland 0 0 0 0 0 0
View all
Rugby World Cup 2015
Overall standings
Team P W L D +/- Pts
Fiji 0 0 0 0 0 0
Samoa 0 0 0 0 0 0
Namibia 0 0 0 0 0 0
South Africa 0 0 0 0 0 0
Wales 0 0 0 0 0 0
View all
 

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