The University of Canberra Vikings will welcome back Ben Alexander, Rory Arnold and Christian Lealiifano for tomorrow night’s Buildcorp National Rugby Championship (NRC) round five matchup with the Sydney Stars at Viking Park on Thursday evening (ko 7.30pm).
The undefeated Vikings were without the trio for Saturday’s tense 26-23 win over the Spirit in Perth and will be boosted by their return against the rejuvenated Stars.
Lealiifano will start at flyhalf for the first time this season, with Rodney Iona moving to inside centre and James Dargaville to the wing for his first clash against his former NRC side.
Alexander replaces Leslie Leulua’iali’i-Makin at tighthead prop with the latter starting as a replacement. Arnold, the Australian Super Rugby Rookie of the Year, returns to the second row. Jordan Smiler will move back to blindside flanker and Dean Oakman-Hunt to the reserves list.
In other changes, former New Zealand schoolboys representative Isaac Thompson returns to the side at fullback after missing two matches with a foot injury. Frankie Fainifo moves to the bench after starting against the Spirit last week.
Meanwhile, the Stars will be hoping to make the most of the opportunity this week with a few changes from a hot outing against the Eagles. Tom Carter steps straight back in to the team at inside centre and Tolu Latu brings with him a wealth of experience after returning from Barbarian and World XV duties. Stepping up at tighthead on the back of an impressive performance in Tamworth is Matt Sandell and Jordan McGregor will assume the fly half and kicking duties.
Bolstering the Stars starting XV are exciting Balmain pair John Hale and Ofa Finau who return from their successful Kentwell Cup grand final match last weekend.
Head coach Peter Playford has once again proved his commitment to the Buildcorp NRC direction of developing young talent by giving youngster Christian Kagiassis his first opportunity for the Stars. An exciting fullback/flyhalf, look for Christian to add plenty of energy when he enters the game.
The two sides also met in round five of last year’s NRC at Leichhardt Oval in Sydney. On that occasion nothing could separate them, with the match ending in a 37-all draw. Both teams crossed for five tries and kicked four conversions in that encounter.
The match will be the only Thursday night match at Viking Park during the regular season and will be broadcast live on Fox Sports from 7:30pm.
UC Vikings side to play the Sydney Stars at Viking Park
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 Taliuali
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
Sydney Stars side to play the UC Vikings
1. TOLU LATU (SYDNEY UNI)
2. TOM COOLICAN (SYDNEY UNI)
3. MATT SANDELL (SYDNEY UNI)
4. JEREMY TILSE (SYDNEY UNI)
5. MATT PHILIP (VC) (SYDNEY UNI)
6. MICHAEL KOVACIC (EASTWOOD)
7. OFA FINAU (BALMAIN)
8. MITCHELL WHITELEY (SYDNEY UNI)
9. JAKE GORDON (SYDNEY UNI)
10. JORDAN MCGREGOR (SOUTHERN DISTRICTS)
11. HARRY JONES (WARRINGAH)
12. TOM CARTER (SYDNEY UNI)
13. JIM STEWART (SYDNEY UNI)
14. JOHN HALE (BALMAIN)
15. TOM KINGSTON (C) (SYDNEY UNI)
16. DECLAN MOORE (SYDNEY UNI)
17. ALASTAIR RYAN (SYDNEY UNI)
18. ALASDAIR KING (SYDNEY UNI)
19. NICK COLDRAKE (SYDNEY UNI)
20. JAKE WAINWRIGHT (SYDNEY UNI)
21. RICHARD DRAPER (SYDNEY UNI)
22. CHRISTIAN KAGIASSIS (SYDNEY UNI)
23. ANDREW ROBINSON (CANBERRA VIKINGS)