Jack Pennington in action for the Eagles last weekend against the Rams (Image: Malcolm Chuck)
CSU NSW Country Eagles coach Darren Coleman has made five changes to his starting side ahead of Saturday’s round two Buildcorp NRC clash at Woollahra Oval in Sydney.
Locks Sam Carter and Sam Lousi are both expected to miss Saturday’s clash, with Newcastle boy Nick Palmer, Sam Figg, Dane Maraki and Irish international Tom Sexton all promoted to the starting forward pack.
In the backs, Randwick rake Mitch Short replaces Mike Dowsett, who is expected to miss the remainder of the NRC season after dislocating his shoulder at training earlier this week.
University of Canberra Vikings Head Coach Brad Harris has named a side mixed with youth and plenty of experience for the team’s opening match of the Buildcorp National Rugby Championship this weekend.
The 23-man side to take on NSW Country Eagles at Woollahra Oval on Saturday, contains nine Vikings debutants that are either NRC rookies, or have moved to the nation’s capital for the 2015 season.
Allan Alaalatoa and Leslie Leuluai’ali-i-Makin will start in the front row, alongside 2015 UC Vikings recruit and former Perth Spirit hooker Robbie Abel.
Abel made his rise through the ranks with Canberra Royals side, before taking a two-year hiatus from rugby as he undertook a Mormon mission. He made his NRC debut against the UC Vikings last year for the Perth Spirit and went on to score five tries from just six appearances.
Rory Arnold and Blake Enever, who were named joint recipients of the Aquis Brumbies Shawn MacKay Most Outstanding Young Talent Award following their standout Super Rugby seasons, will link up in the second-row. It will be Enever’s first match for the Vikings after playing for Queensland Country in 2014.
The UC Vikings have named arguably one of the best back-rows in the 2015 NRC. Brumbies trio Jordan Smiler (vice-captain), Jarrad Butler (captain) and former NSW Country Eagles No. 8 Ita Vaea will link up at the back of the scrum.
At scrumhalf is Joe Powell. The Australian U20 representative recently signed on with the Brumbies Extended Playing Squad following three Super Rugby appearances with the club in 2015.
At flyhalf will be Rodney Iona. The Tuggeranong Vikings playmaker already has a strong relationship with Powell and showed up a number of opposition players with his fancy footwork in the 2014 NRC.
At inside-centre will be Brumbies youngster James Dargaville. The 23-year old played for Sydney Stars last season and will be looking to make a great impression in the number 12. Joining Dargaville in the centres will be one of the competition’s most elusive try-scorers from 2014, Nigel Ah Wong.
On the wings will be Lausii Taliauli and Jerome Niumata. Niumata is one of the John I Dent’s best finishers, while Taliauli was one of the stars for the competition’s champions, Royals.
At fullback will be former New Zealand schoolboy, Isaac Thompson who made a great impression for the Vikings during the 2014 NRC.
If the starting side wasn’t impressive enough, the reserves list contains a mixture of some of the best young players in Australian rugby, and the most experienced prop in Wallabies history, Ben Alexander.
Alexander will be making his debut for the UC Vikings alongside another experienced campaigner, Frankie Fainifo who has returned home from three-years of professional rugby in France.
Joining the ‘veterans’ on the bench will be NRC rookies, Dean Oakman-Hunt, Brent Hamlin and Mitch Third.
Hamlin, a former Ausralian schoolboy representative scrumhalf, starred for Royals in the 2015 John I Dent Cup. Dean is one half of the Oakman-Hunt twins named in the UC Vikings squad from the Tuggeranong Vikings program and Third has linked with the Vikings from the Queensland U20 program.
The other reserves listed are 2014 UC Vikings squad members Sione Taula, Connal McInerney and Rowan Perry.
After having the bye in round one, the UC Vikings travel to Woollahra Oval in Sydney to take on the Eagles on Saturday. Kick-off is 3pm.
In 2014, the Eagles defeated the UC Vikings 42-37 at Viking Park.
A curtain raiser between the CSU NSW Country Eagles development side and the ACT Griffins will be played before the main game, with the Eagles also hosting a food and wine festival throughout the day at Woollahra Oval.
Tickets are available at www.nswcountryeagles.com
CSU NSW Country Eagles team to play UC Vikings
1. Dane Maraki
2. Tom Sexton
3. Dashville Kuate
4. Ned Hannigan
5. Nick Palmer
6. Sam Figg
7. Will Miller
8. Mark Baldwin
9. Mitch Short
10. Jono Lance
11. Joel Brooks
12. David Horwitz
13. Ed Stubbs
14. Charlie Clifton
15. Andrew Kellaway
16. Ryan Dalziel
17. Jerome Vaai
18. Jake Ilnicki
19. BJ Edwards
20. Pauli Tuala
21. Jarome Mackenzie
22. Will Fay
23. Jack Pennington
UC Vikings side to take on the NSW Country Eagles
1. Allan Alaalatoa
2. Robbie Abel
3. Leslie Leuluai’ali’i-Makin
4. Rory Arnold
5. Blake Enever
6. Jordan Smiler (vc)
7. Jarrad Butler ©
8. Ita Vaea
9. Joe Powell
10. Rodney Iona (vc)
11. Lausii Taliauli
12. James Dargaville
13. Nigel Ah Wong
14. Jerome Niumata
15. Isaac Thompson
16. Connal McInerney
17. Sione Taula
18. Ben Alexander
19. Dean Oakman-Hunt
20. Rowan Perry
21. Brent Hamlin
22. Mitch Third
23. Francis Fainifo