The University of Canberra Vikings will field a near full-strength side for Saturday afternoon’s Buildcorp National Rugby Championship matchup against defending premiers, Brisbane City.
After wrapping up the side’s first semi-final appearance with last week’s 42-16 bonus point victory over Melbourne Rising, the UC Vikings will be looking to remain undefeated against the competition heavyweights when they clash at Viking Park.
Fullback Aidan Toua who scored one of the tries of the season in last week’s win, will miss the match after pulling up sore at training earlier this week. He will be replaced in the Starting XV by Isaac Thompson who started last week’s match as a reserve.
Rodney Iona, who missed last week’s win at Viking Park due to a shoulder injury, returns to inside centre meaning James Dargaville moves out to the wing.
Mitch Third is the other new face in the side this week. The young flyhalf/fullback has been named as a reserve following some strong performances for the ACT Griffins.
The match at Viking Park on Saturday afternoon is being billed as one of the biggest on record for the NRC. It will feature the only two undefeated sides in the 2015 competition, and a number of Wallabies representatives including Christian Lealiifano, Ben Alexander for the UC Vikings and Liam Gill from Brisbane City.
Head Coach Brad Harris says the UC Vikings will need to shut down Brisbane City’s dangerous back three which includes the competition’s leading try-scorer Junior Laloifi, former league and AFL player Karmichael Hunt and Tevita Kuridrani’s cousin Chris Kuridrani.
“They’ve got significant attacking threats,” Harris said.
“They’ve got a massive backline that can play and will offload.
“We’re going to have to be very much on our game defensively to nullify that.”
Meanwhile, McInnes Wilson Lawyers Brisbane City travel to the nation’s capital looking to hold onto top spot with the Horan-Little Shield also up for grabs.
City Head Coach Nick Stiles has made two changes and one positional switch to his starting team, with a further three changes on the bench. The changes take place in the back row with captain Liam Gill returning to the side of the scrum, shifting Waita Setu to blindside- flanker.
St.George Queensland Reds 2015 debutant Adam Korczyk also returns to the squad, selected at Number 8 for his first NRC match of the season in place of Scott Higginbotham, who has been ruled out due to a minor groin injury.
In the backline, Nick Frisby and Jake McIntyre will play their seventh-match in succession as a halves pairing and centres Henry Taefu and Samu Kerevi will once again don the 12 and 13 jerseys respectively. The outside back trio of Junior Laloifi, Chris Kuridrani and fullback Karmichael Hunt remain unchanged.
On the bench, Brothers’ hooker Matt Mafi retains his role as the replacement hooker, with Souths’ Markus Vanzati and Sunnybank’s Feao Fotuaika providing cover as props.
Gill’s return sees Brothers backrower Luke Beauchamp move to the bench. One of Souths’ best players during the 2015 BLK Queensland Premier Rugby season, Andy Muirhead, is in line to make his NRC and Brisbane City debut off the bench as an outside-back replacement.
The return of captain Gill and Korczyk are big boosts to the Brisbane City backrow ahead of this weekend’s clash.
“Our backrow has been one of our strengths so far this season. We have a good balance and the players that have featured there continue to maintain the high standards that we expect from them,” Stiles said.
“This week, Adam gets his first opportunity of 2015 and we are looking forward to seeing the bearing he will have on the game having had an outstanding season.
“2015 saw Adam awarded ‘Player of the Tournament’ at the National Under-20s Championships, before scoring a try in his Super Rugby debut for the Reds and featuring for the Australian Under-20s.
“Scott Higginbotham, who is battling a groin injury, is a loss as he has been influential in our success so far this season but Adam’s inclusion is timely and we’re confident he can make an impact.”
When asked about the inclusion of Muirhead on the bench, Stiles said it is essential to give everyone in his squad an opportunity.
“Andy had a great club season with Souths culminating in a Premiership victory. He has brought a lot of energy to the squad and he continues to work hard at training each week. We are really happy with his progress and look forward to seeing what he can do with his chance this weekend in Canberra.”
Saturday’s match kicks off at 2:00pm AEDT (1:00pm AEST) and the match will be streamed live at www.foxsports.com.au/rugby/nrc/nrcondemand.
UC Vikings side to play Brisbane City:
1. Allan Alaalatoa
2. Robbie Abel
3. Ben Alexander
4. Rory Arnold
5. Blake Enever
6. Jordan Smiler
7. Jarrad Butler (c)
8. Ita Vaea
9. Joe Powell
10. Christian Lealiifano
11. Lausii Taliauli
12. Rodney Iona
13. Nigel Ah Wong
14. James Dargaville
15. Isaac Thompson
16. Albert Anae
17. Sione Taula
18. Leslie Leulua’iali’i-Makin
19. Dean Oakman-Hunt
20. Rowan Perry
21. Brent Hamlin
22. Mitch Third
23. Frankie Fainifo
McInnes Wilson Lawyers Brisbane City side to play Canberra Vikings:
1. Pettowa Paraka – Reds/Easts
2. Andrew Ready – Reds/Easts
3. Sam Talakai – Reds/GPS
4. Corey Thomas - GPS
5. Cadeyrn Neville – Reds/Manly
6. Waita Setu - GPS
7. Liam Gill (C) – Reds/Sunnybank
8. Adam Korczyk – Reds/University of Queensland
9. Nick Frisby – Reds/GPS
10. Jake McIntyre – Reds/Sunnybank
11. Junior Laloifi – Sunnybank
12. Henry Taefu – Sunnybank
13. Samu Kerevi – Reds/GPS
14. Chris Kuridrani – Reds/GPS
15. Karmichael Hunt – Reds/Brothers
16. Matt Mafi - Brothers
17. Markus Vanzati - Souths
18. Feao Fotuaika - Sunnybank
19. Ben Hyne - Brothers
20. Luke Beauchamp - Brothers
21. Moses Sorovi – University of Queensland
22. Alex Gibbon – Southern Districts
23. Andy Muirhead - Souths