Vaughan might celebrate birthday with Raiders debut
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Vaughan might celebrate birthday with Raiders debut

Canberra prop Paul Vaughan looks set to celebrate his birthday with a first grade debut as the Raiders look to fill the void left by injured star forwards David Shillington and Josh Papalii.

Vaughan is favourite to replace Shillington, who has ruled himself out of Saturday's trip to Townsville after damaging his ribs in Canberra's win over the Warriors.

Raiders forward Paul Vaughan could debut in first grade this weekend.

Raiders forward Paul Vaughan could debut in first grade this weekend.

Photo: STUART WALMSLEY

It shapes as the best possible gift for Vaughan, who turns 22 on Tuesday when Canberra's side is named.

If selected, the Gungahlin Bulls junior faces a baptism of fire against North Queensland Cowboys Test props Matt Scott and James Tamou.

Paul Vaughan played in Canberra's trial match against the Bulldogs at Goulburn in February.

Paul Vaughan played in Canberra's trial match against the Bulldogs at Goulburn in February.

Photo: Colleen Petch COP
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On paper there's no tougher initiation, but Shillington insisted the 189cm, 108kg giant is up to the task.

''I just think he's ready for it now, it's the right time for him to debut and get a bit of experience,'' Shillington said.

''He's quite a big fella and more than capable of handling himself physically out there.

''If he does get picked I'll have a chat to him, I'll tell him to play his natural game because that's all we need from him.

''They've got an unreal pack led by Tamou and Scott, it will be a great first up test.''

Mounties coach Steve Antonelli insists Vaughan won't be intimidated if thrown into the deep end against the best front row duo in the game.

He added Vaughan's impressive agility and footwork for a big man can give Canberra's huge prop rotation another dimension.

Vaughan represented the NSW Residents last year, and was named in Italy's World Cup squad which could yet include fellow Raiders Terry Campese and Shaun Berrigan.

''He deserves a crack, he's been knocking on the door for a while,'' Antonelli said.

''He'd be up against Test front rowers but he doesn't get intimidated Vaughany, it doesn't matter who he's up against.

''He's an absolute giant, but his best traits are he's got good leg speed for a prop, good on his feet and quick over a short distance.''

Canberra coach David Furner said he was yet to decide whether he will hand Vaughan a debut, or recall Sam Mataora. ''I think it will be between him and Sam Mataora, I haven't made a decision on that,'' Furner said.

''I watched the Mounties on the weekend, and I thought both in a loss were fairly impressive.''

Former Bulldogs back rower Jake Foster may also make his Raiders debut by replacing Papalii, who underwent minor double-knee surgery last week.

Despite a call-up for the Indigenous All Stars in February, Foster is yet to play first grade this year after racking up eight games with Canterbury. The 24-year-old's case is helped by the fact he has played on the right edge for Mounties this year, a role Papalii has made his own.

Foster spent time at five-eighth for Canterbury's NSW Cup side last year, and his ball skills could see him get the nod to replace attacking weapon Papalii.

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SATURDAY

NRL round seven: North Queensland Cowboys v Canberra Raiders at 1300SMILES Stadium, Townsville, 5.30pm. TV Time: Live on Fox Sports 1.

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