After a year away from representative rugby, Parkes lock Dan Ryan makes his return to the NSW Country set-up on Sunday afternoon when the Cockatoos take on traditional rivals NSW Suburban Rugby Union in Camden.
Ryan, who last played for Country in 2015, is one of just two Central West Blue Bulls to make the cut in Mat Thomas’ final, 23-man Cockatoos squad for this weekend’s annual Maher/Ross Cup clash.
He, along with barnstorming Forbes prop Charlie French, will line up in burnt orange and black.
Ryan will run from the bench while French will start in the No.1 jersey at loosehead prop as the Cockatoos’ start their short, but intense 2017 representative campaign.
While Ryan has been an impressive addition to the Country side in the past and Thomas is fully aware of what he can do, French was included in last year’s side as a development player and once again impressed the Cockatoos coach.
“Charlie did really well as a development player in last year’s squad, we did plenty of work with him and he did plenty of work on his own and it’s really great to see him flourish the way he has,” Thomas said.
“He stood up (at the NSW Country Rugby Union Championships) and played very well.”
Thomas and his fellow coaches feel they’ve found a good balance in the squad for this year’s campaign, with new additions set to bring plenty to the side and complement the experienced Cockatos like fullback Ben Damon and Illawarra back-rower Paul Tuala.
“We will also look to have a massive impact off the bench from AJ Gilbert, who brings an unbelievable ability to read the game and seemingly appear everywhere around the field,” Thomas said.
“It is evident that there is a new energy in the squad with a lots of new faces and we’ll look to transfer that energy into our style of play against Subbies.
“The team boasts a very strong tight five, which have great set piece ability, a dynamic back row and some genuine pace in the backs, so we will utilise these strengths and look to play accordingly.
“The opportunity for the boys to play in a genuine City versus NSW Country fixture is really exciting for the players and I know they truly relish it.”
The NSW Country Colts also play at Camden, against Sydney East and West in two selection trials for next year’s NSW Waratahs Gen Blue (under 20s) squad. The Cockatoos kick off at 1.30pm.