NEW 15-minute Wallaby Izack Rodda will sharpen his match fitness by diving into the "Game of Thorns" mentality of Queensland Country.
The towering lock was rostered for a non-compulsory day on Monday but was so eager to sustain his momentum he rocked up anyway for skills and weights sessions with the Reds.
Rodda, 21, was parachuted into a daunting Test debut last Saturday in Dunedin when the All Blacks were on a roll.
He was on for only a blink when he was alert enough to swoop on a loose ball at a ruck to set in motion the 80m raid that ended in the super Will Genia try.
"I was freakin' nervous for sure before the game but when you get on it's just about getting into the rugby," Rodda said.
"It was an amazing experience and you definitely want more."
The Wallabies pulled together a treat, with Rodda's mum Donna flown to Dunedin to savour the Ipswich Grammar product's Test debut.
It was Rodda's first rugby in six weeks because of the Reds' early exit from Super Rugby so Saturday's kick-off to the National Rugby Championship is perfect timing.
He has been cleared to play for Country, under taskmaster coach Brad Thorn, in its opener against the Canberra Vikings in Canberra.
It will be valuable game time before Rodda's next Test chance against South Africa in Perth on Saturday week.
After Country's limp last-place showing a year ago, Thorn has been cracking the whip so it is no longer a team of turnstiles conceding 49 points per game.
"Thornie has been very strong on bringing a tough mentality to this NRC season and being the best defensive team," new Country captain Duncan Paia'aua said.
"He has a 20-minute series of drills that have become known as Game of Thorns because he takes us a to a dark place."
One old-school Thorn drill gets players to hit a tackle shield, drop to the ground, drag themselves up and repeat the pounding of the pad across the width of the field.
In three seasons, the NRC has become a valuable pathway for standout players to win Super Rugby breaks.
It has been played under modified rules and scoring to enhance the pace of play but the Australian Rugby Union has wisely decided to revert to the regular rule book so it better mirrors Super Rugby.
Paia'aua hasn't captained a side since under-14s at school in Rockhampton and treats the nod as an honour.
"I'm a bit surprised but very honoured for Thornie to see me as a leader for this group.," Paia'aua said.
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