Footscray and Melbourne Rebels forwards Cruze Ah-Nau and Lopeti Timani will make their first appearances of the 2015 Buildcorp National Rugby Championship (NRC), after both were named to start against the Greater Sydney Rams in Morwell this Saturday.
Ah-Nau and Timani each played every game of the Melbourne Rising’s 2014 season, where they won the inaugural Minor Premiership before being eliminated at the Semi Final stage, and they return after completing rehabilitation from minor injuries suffered in the lead-up to the NRC.
Their inclusions are among four changes to the starting lineup which defeated the North Harbour Rays back in Round Three, with Box Hill flyer Filipe Vilitati earning a first start on the right wing and Wallaby Dom Shipperley returning from representative duty with the Barbarians in the UK to start at outside centre.
In a further boost, fellow 2015 Barbarians representatives Tom English and Luke Jones return via the reserves bench, while Colby Fainga’a will lead the side out as Captain for the first time as Co-Captain Scott Fuglistaller moves out of the starting lineup as part of a backrow rotation.
Melbourne Rising Head Coach Zane Hilton said that there were plenty of difficult decisions to make at selection time.
“It’s exciting to welcome back Cruze, Dom, Lopeti, Luke and Tom, as well as to give Filipe his first start at NRC level; he’s certainly earned it,” Hilton said.
“Ultimately, we’ve had to leave out some players who have performed strongly for us, which bodes well for where our program is at.
“We’re really confident in the entire squad we have at our disposal, and that confidence has been justified by the way our players have performed when given the opportunity. We’ve used 28 players already in this competition after just three matches, yet our standards and expectations haven’t dropped.”
The Melbourne Rising will play a first ever match in Morwell, approximately 150 kilometres from the Melbourne CBD, and Hilton is excited to take his side to regional Victoria.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity for us to go and test out a wonderful regional facility,” he said. “Colby and Jonah went and visited the stadium last week, and they’ve only had good things to say.
“There’s a great playing surface, and they’ve hosted an A-League fixture out there before so we know that it is a first class setup. We’re looking forward to seeing as many Gippsland locals, as well as our dedicated Melbourne Rising fans, in Morwell on Saturday.”
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Melbourne Rising team to play the Greater Sydney Rams:
1. Cruze Ah-Nau (Footscray & Rebels, 9 Melbourne Rising caps)
2. Pat Leafa (Box Hill & Rebels, 12 Melbourne Rising caps)
3. Duncan Chubb (Southern Districts (NSW), 3 Melbourne Rising caps)
4. Sam Jeffries (Melbourne Uni & Rebels, 11 Melbourne Rising caps)
5. Steve Cummins (Harlequin & Rebels, 3 Melbourne Rising caps)
6. Jordy Reid (Melbourne Unicorns & Rebels, 3 Melbourne Rising caps)
7. Colby Fainga’a (Footscray & Rebels, 3 Melbourne Rising caps) (Captain)
8. Lopeti Timani (Footscray & Rebels, 9 Melbourne Rising caps)
9. Ben Meehan (Box Hill & Rebels, 6 Melbourne Rising caps)
10. Jack Debreczeni (Endeavour Hills & Rebels, 12 Melbourne Rising caps)
11. Stacey Ili (Melbourne Uni, 2 Melbourne Rising caps)
12. Lloyd Johansson (Harlequin, 12 Melbourne Rising caps)
13. Dom Shipperley (Melbourne Uni & Rebels, 1 Melbourne Rising cap)
14. Filipe Vilitati (Box Hill, 2 Melbourne Rising caps)
15. Jonah Placid (Melbourne Uni & Rebels, 10 Melbourne Rising caps)
16. Mitch Andrews (Melbourne Unicorns, 1 Melbourne Rising cap)
17. Fereti Sa’aga (Melbourne Uni, 5 Melbourne Rising caps)
18. Tom Moloney (Brothers (QLD), 1 Melbourne Rising cap)
19. Luke Jones (Moorabbin & Rebels, 9 Melbourne Rising caps)
20. Scott Fuglistaller (Moorabbin & Rebels, 3 Melbourne Rising caps)
21. Maradona Farao (Harlequin, 2 Melbourne Rising caps)
22. Sione Tuipulotu (Southern Districts, 3 Melbourne Rising caps)
23. Tom English (Melbourne Uni & Rebels, 9 Melbourne Rising caps)
Greater Sydney Rams team to play Melbourne Rising:
1. Jed Gillespie
2. Hugh Roach
3. Cam Betham
4. Fili Tufui
5. Marcus Carbone
6. Kelly Meafua
7. Cohen Masson
8. Jed Holloway
9. Dewet Roos
10. Jai Ayoub
11. Brad Curtis
12. Michael Macdougall
13. Paul Asquith
14. Nick Batger
15. Brendan Hartmann
16. Cameron Orr
17. Siliva Siliva
18. Sam Needs
19. Will Munro
20. Jono Hayes
21. Taylar Adams
22. Rohan Saifoloi
23. Jordan Heyer