Macquarie University North Harbour Rays selectors have moved Michael Adams to outside centre for the Rays' Buildcorp National Rugby Championship match against Queensland Country at Pittwater Rugby Park on Saturday.
Adams, who has spent much of the NRC season on the wing and performed well, steps into the No.13 jersey of Dennis Pili-Gaitau in a team with minimal changes from last week.
Pili-Gaitau will work off the bench and head coach Geoff Townsend is hoping that he will have a considerable influence when he comes on to the field.
“Mick (Adams) likes the outside channels and he plays them well so in some ways we are signaling that we are going to go out there and have a real crack at them,” Townsend said.
“There’s an element of fatigue in the squad at the moment so in some ways this is throwing the fresher troops into the fray at the front end of the game.
“The fatigue of playing four Super Rugby aligned franchises (Perth Spirit, Melbourne Rising, Brisbane City and the UC Vikings) showed in our performance against the Greater Sydney Rams last week.
“I’ve just been looking through the stats from that game and we more than doubled their tackle count over the course of the game.
“The fact that we got our nose in front against the Rams in many ways showed the resolve within this group of Rays but it has been a tough season for us with guys heading off for opportunities and a lack of depth in certain areas.
“But there are two games to go and we are determined to have a red hot go in those matches and come away with some results.”
Up front Lawrance Hunting has been brought into the front row at tighthead prop to try and stabilize the scrum. Hunting takes over from Alex Holmes who drops back to the bench.
Hamish Angus, who had to quite the game against the Rams early when hit with back spasms has been declared fit and will take his place at fullback.
The Rays missed him when he came off as his role as a second first receiver in general play takes the pressure of Sam Lane.
Tom Hill, who rushed home from the Rams game to complete a 3000 word essay for his legal degree, has been selected on the wing after working off the bench for the past couple of games.
Hill will play a roving role throughout the afternoon and will be tasked with taking the ball up when not required out wide.
Bond University Queensland Country will return to action in Round 8 of the Buildcorp National Rugby Championship (NRC) following a bye in Round 7.
Head coach Jason Gilmore will this week welcome back a number of key players, while also rewarding those who performed for Queensland Country in their 24-16 win over the NSW Country Eagles in trialling conditions in Round 6.
The same forward park from the NSW Country clash will once again start this Saturday, and they will look to build upon their dominant set-piece performance.
In the backline, St.George Queensland Reds centre Campbell Magnay will return to the side for the first time since Country’s Round 4 clash against the Greater Sydney Rams, forming a new centre-pairing with former National Rugby League (NRL) player Lagi Setu.
In the back-three, Sam Greene, who was ruled out of Country’s Round 6 match, returns to the side at fullback rather than his traditional position of flyhalf, with Elliott Hagen ruled out through injury.
In the reserves, the side welcomes back experienced campaigners Haydn Hirsimaki and Reuben Leilua, who will again add further strength to Country’s frontrow stocks.
Bond University lock Milton Sikuea also returns to the line-up for the first time since Round 4, having missed Country’s last two games through injury. Sikuea will be joined on the bench by Bond teammate and Australian Under-20s halfback Harry Nucifora, who is in line for his potential NRC and Queensland Country debut.
Mitchell local and 2015 Melbourne Storm Under-20s playmaker Mack Mason is also in line for his potential debut. Wests centre Tyrone Lefau rounds out the 23, with the return of Magnay seeing him move to the reserves.
“We’re lucky to welcome back a number of key players this week who will help strengthen the depth of the match-day 23, but we’ve also looked to keep some consistency from the side that secured a gutsy win over NSW Country a fortnight ago,” Gilmore said.
“Our scrum gave us a great platform to work off in Round 6 so we’ve rewarded those eight players, and we’ve got big bodies in Hirsimaki, Leilua and Sikuea to come off the bench which is a great asset.
“In the backs, Campbell (Magnay) showed great aggression in both attack and defence in his previous two games for us and he should gel well with Setu in the centres.
“While Hagen is a loss, we now have two playmakers in Greene and Taumata on the field which creates a number of options for us and we’ve seen Greene show some great attacking flare from fullback in previous matches.
“It’s also great to welcome Nucifora into the team after working hard through the season so far to get himself fit.”
Another big afternoon is planned for the game at Rat Park with the Emerging Rays taking on an Illawarra Development XV and a Sevens Challenge between Manly and Warringah where every player has to weight over 100kg.
There will be a live band after the game and also a gourmet barbecue.
Queensland Country’s match against the North Harbour Rays will kick off at 3:00pm AEDT / 2:00pm AEST on Saturday afternoon, and will be LIVE streamed at www.foxsports.com.au/rugby/nrc/nrcondemand.
North Harbour Rays side to play Queensland Country:
15. Hamish ANGUS (Warringah)
14. Tom HILL (Eastwood)
13. Michael Adams (Warringah)
12. Reece HODGE (Manly)
11. John PORCH (Northern Suburbs)
10. Sam LANE (Manly)
9. Josh HOLMES (Warringah)
8. Harry RORKE (Gordon)
7. Boyd KILLINGWORTH (Warringah)
6. Harry BERGELIN (Manly)
5. Ryan MELROSE (Manly)
4. Ruairidh WILSON (Gordon)
3. Lawrance HUNTING (Northern Suburbs)
2. Luke HOLMES (captain, Warringah)
1. Mitch LEWIS (Manly)
16. Vance ELLIOTT (Manly)
17. Rory O’CONNOR (Gordon)
18. Alex HOLMES (Bond University)
19. Cameron TRELOAR (Warringah)
20. Mitch DANIEL (Manly)
21. Tim DONLAN (Manly)
22. Dennis PILI-GAITAU (Manly)
23. Sione ALA (Gordon)
Queensland Country side to face North Harbour Rays:
1. Sef Fa’agase – Reds/University of Queensland/Beaudesert
2. Alex Mafi – Reds/Bond University/Mt Isa
3. Taniela Tupou – Reds/Brothers
4. Tyrell Barker - Easts
5. Phil Potgieter – University of Queensland/Toowoomba
6. Maclean Jones – University of Queensland/St George
7. Conor Mitchell – University of Queensland/Sunshine Coast
8. James Turner (vc) – Souths/Cairns
9. James Tuttle (c) – Reds/GPS
10. Dion Taumata – Bond University/Gold Coast
11. Pierce Fitzgerald – Brothers/Townsville
12. Lagi Setu
13. Campbell Magnay – Reds/GPS
14. Tom Banks – Reds/University of Queensland
15. Sam Greene – Reds/Brothers
16. Campbell Wakely – University of Queensland/Gold Coast
17. Haydn Hirsimaki – Sunnybank/Sunshine Coast
18. Rueben Leilua – University of Queensland/Bowen
19. Milton Sikuea – Bond University/Gold Coast
20. Jack Cornelsen – University of Queensland/Gold Coast
21. Harry Nucifora – Bond University/Gold Coast
22. Mack Mason - Mitchell
23. Tyrone Lefau – Wests