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Drew Southwell makes his starting debut for Canberra Vikings in the National Rugby Championship

The absence of Brumbies stars Joe Tomane and Henry Speight will allow long-serving Canberra club footballer Drew Southwell to make his starting debut in the National Rugby Championship.

After not getting a touch of the ball in a couple of cameos off the bench, Southwell will run out on the field for the first time for the Canberra Vikings in Thursday night's match with the North Harbour Rays at Viking Park.

The 27-year-old will line up on the wing and gets his chance with Tomane away with the Wallabies in Argentina, while Speight and Australian Sevens flyer Lausii Taliauli are both sidelined with hamstring injuries.

Southwell's consistent form for Wests in the John I Dent Cup saw him called up to the ACT XV last year - the first representative team he had been selected for since making the ACT under-12s team almost 15 years ago.

A teacher at Melba Copland Secondary School, Southwell will trade the classroom for a nationally televised match with and against players who have international and Super Rugby experience.

"It's been a long journey and a lot of hard work is finally paying off, so it's going to be really exciting," Southwell said.


"The last rep side I made other than last year was in the under-12s, so it's been a long time between drinks.

"Playing for the ACT XV was a proud moment and to go on and to make the Vikings was something I didn't think was possible."

Southwell has been with Wests since the age of five, breaking into the senior team in 2005, coinciding with the club's most recent first-grade premiership.

His decision to join Wests had the potential to start a family revolt, with his dad Jeff Southwell having played more than 350 games at Royals and uncle Wayne having coached Queanbeyan.

Southwell joins a star-studded backline including Brumbies stars Jesse Mogg and Robbie Coleman, who is starting at fly-half for the first time.

"The backline we've got is amazing, so just the experience from training and being around them and their work ethic is something I can definitely take forward," Southwell said.

"I've been on for about a little bit under 20 minutes, and I'm still waiting to get my hands on the ball.

"It's going to be exciting come tomorrow night when I get my hands on it and get amongst it."

The Vikings are tied for fourth place on the table with the Perth Spirit, with the Rays only one point behind in seventh.


Thursday: Canberra Vikings v North Harbour Rays at Viking Park, 7.35pm.

TV: Live on Fox Sports 2.