Queensland Country look for first win against ladder leaders

by Marty Cambridge

Queensland Country’s quest for their first 2016 NRC win doesn’t get any easier, with a match against the ladder-leading Sydney Rays at Bond Uni looming.

Head coach Toutai Kefu has made five changes to the squad that went down to Melbourne Rising last weekend, including promoting Super Rugby prop and Gold Coast local Ben Daley to the first XV and dropping flyhalf Mack Mason back to the bench.

“We’ve had to make a number of adjustments to the side this week, but the benefit we have is that we’ve welcomed back a number of players with experience,” he said.

“Backrowers Jack Cornelsen and Maclean Jones featured heavily for Country throughout the 2015 season, and Ben Daley has been excellent for us off the bench and will relish the chance to start this weekend in front of the Gold Coast crowd.”

In a forced change, Queensland Reds winger Eto Nabuli will miss the clash after suffering a concussion in the second half against the Rising, replaced by promising youngster Liam Jurd, while Duncan Paia’aua will return after missing round two with a shoulder injury.Mack Mason has been dropped to the bench after two straight losses for Queensland Country. Photo: ARU Media/Stu Walmsley“Paia’aua and [Izaia] Perese in the centres will form an exciting pairing, while Liam Jurd was one of the Australian U20s most consistent performers on tour at the World Junior U20 Championships,” Kefu said.

“The promotion of Jurd and Angus Scott-Young into the match-day 23 is a great example of the pathway system at work and I’m looking forward to seeing these two young prospects in action.”

“We have a tough task ahead of us in the Rays but the side are improving each and every week and we’re beginning to implement the game plan we’re striving for.”

Izack Rodda has been a shining light in what has otherwise been a dim start to the Buildcorp NRC for Queensland Country. Photo: ARU Media/Stu WalmsleyIn a boost for the Rays, Sevens star Con Foley will finally get some minutes for the side after warming the bench for the full 80 in their win over Perth Spirit.

“Con’s fitted into our group and backline structures and we felt it was time to have a good look at him in a game,” head coach Simon Cron said.

Cron has been forced to bring in Harry Bergelin and James Brown to the side after Hugh Sinclair was ruled out for the rest of the season after he strained his medial ligament at training during the week.

The Rays currently sit on top of the ladder with two back-to-back bonus point victories.

Con Foley has been part of the Australian Sevens program since 2011. Photo: Getty Images.

Queensland Country

Starting 1-15: Ben Daley, Alex Casey, Taniela Tupou, Izack Rodder, Rob Simmons, Tyrell Barker, Conor Mitchell, Jack Cornelsen, James Tuttle, Mitch

Third, Liam Jurd, Duncan Paia’aua, Izaia Perese, Liam McNamara, Tom Banks.

Reserves: Feleti Kaitu’u, Sef Fa’agase, Kirwan Sanday, Angus Scott-Young, Maclean Jones, Isaak Fines-Leleiwasa, Mack Mason, Tyrone Lefau.

Sydney Rays

Starting 1-15: Ezra Luxton, Damien Fitzpatrick, Lawrance Hunting, Connor Vest, Nick Palmer, Harry Bergelin/James Brown, Will Miller, Michael Wells, Matt Lucas (c), Angus Sinclair, Harry Jones, Irae Simone, Con Foley, Richard Woolf, Cameron Clark.

Reserves: James Hilterbrand, Rory O’Connor, Mitch Lewis, Adrian Hall, Harry Bergelin/James Brown, Dewet Roos, Sam Lane, Seb Wileman.

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