Captain Colby Fainga’a, Pat Leafa and Lopeti Timani all return to this week’s Melbourne Rising starting lineup, after Head Coach Zane Hilton named an experienced side to host NSW Country Eagles at Geelong’s Simonds Stadium on Thursday night.
Boasting over 100 Super Rugby caps between them, the trio bring valuable big game expertise and no shortage of power, composure and set piece prowess.
The backline remains unchanged from Friday’s match against the UC Vikings in Canberra, with impressive eighteen year old centre Sione Tuipulotu continuing to partner Wallaby Dom Shipperley in the centres.
Hilton said his side were excited to be back at home and playing to keep their season alive.
“We know that if we are to meet our expectations in this competition, then we simply have to win this match,” Hilton said.
“Therefore, we are focused 100% on Thursday, and haven’t paused to consider any other permutations.
“After two challenging road trips, it’s great to be able to simply head down the highway to our adopted home of Geelong this week, and to play in front of our loyal fans, friends and families.
“Geelong has a proud Rugby history and plenty of passionate supporters, and we’re looking forward to playing at Simonds Stadium; we’re grateful to the City of Greater Geelong and Mayor Darryn Lyons for their support of our program.”
NSW Country Eagles Head Coach Darren Coleman has named in-form Western Force-bound flyhalf Jono Lance as his skipper for the crucial game in regional Victoria.
The Eagles occupy the fourth finals spot in the 2015 Buildcorp NRC and victory in Geelong will go a long way to ensuring a second straight finals appearance for the men in gold.
FOX SPORTS 2 will broadcast the game between Melbourne Rising and NSW Country Eagles from 7.30pm AEDT tomorrow evening.
Melbourne Rising team to play NSW Country Eagles:
1. Cruze Ah-Nau (Footscray & Rebels, 12 Melbourne Rising caps)
2. Pat Leafa (Box Hill & Rebels, 14 Melbourne Rising caps)
3. Duncan Chubb (Southern Districts (NSW), 6 Melbourne Rising caps)
4. Sam Jeffries (Melbourne Uni & Rebels, 14 Melbourne Rising caps)
5. Lopeti Timani (Footscray & Rebels, 11 Melbourne Rising caps)
6. Luke Jones (Moorabbin & Rebels, 12 Melbourne Rising caps)
7. Jordy Reid (Melbourne Unicorns & Rebels, 6 Melbourne Rising caps)
8. Colby Fainga’a (Footscray & Rebels, 5 Melbourne Rising caps) (Captain)
9. Ben Meehan (Box Hill & Rebels, 9 Melbourne Rising caps)
10. Jack Debreczeni (Endeavour Hills & Rebels, 15 Melbourne Rising caps)
11. Stacey Ili (Melbourne Uni, 5 Melbourne Rising caps)
12. Sione Tuipulotu (Southern Districts, 6 Melbourne Rising caps)
13. Dom Shipperley (Melbourne Uni & Rebels, 4 Melbourne Rising cap)
14. Justin Marsters (Harlequin, 4 Melbourne Rising caps)
15. Jonah Placid (Melbourne Uni & Rebels, 13 Melbourne Rising caps)
16. Mitch Andrews (Melbourne Unicorns, 4 Melbourne Rising caps)
17. Mike Tyler (Power House, 2 Melbourne Rising caps)
18. Tom Moloney (Brothers (QLD), 4 Melbourne Rising caps)
19. Steve Cummins (Harlequin & Rebels, 6 Melbourne Rising caps)
20. Pom Simona (Harlequin, 12 Melbourne Rising caps)
21. Maradona Farao (Harlequin, 4 Melbourne Rising caps)
22. Lloyd Johansson (Harlequin, 15 Melbourne Rising caps)
23. Filipe Vilitati (Box Hill, 4 Melbourne Rising caps)
NSW Country Eagles team to play Melbourne Rising:
1. Dane Maraki
2. Tom Sexton
3. Dave Feao
4. Tom Staniforth
5. Nick Palmer
6. Beau Robinson
7. Mark Baldwin
8. Sam Figg
9. Mitch Short
10. Jono Lance (c)
11. Charlie Clifton
12. David Horwitz
13. Ed Stubbs
14. Jarome Mackenzie
15. Andrew Kellaway
16. Peter Nau
17. Dashville Kuate
18. Jerome Vaai
19. Jock Armstrong
20. Bj Edwards
21. Angus Pulver
22. Tom Merritt
23. Jack Pennington