Up to six debutants could feature for the Melbourne Rising in Round Two of the Buildcorp National Rugby Championship (NRC), after Head Coach Zane Hilton named an exciting lineup to host Brisbane City at Harlequin Rugby Club on Saturday at 2pm.
Talented outside backs Stacey Ili (Melbourne Uni) and Justin Marsters (Harlequin) will start, replacing Tom English and Dom Shipperley on the wings after both of those players were selected to travel to London and represent the Barbarians against Samoa at Olympic Stadium on Sunday morning (AEST).
“We’ve certainly been impressed by both Justin and Stacey in training, and we’re really looking forward to seeing them in action on Saturday,” Hilton said. “Justin will get a real boost from making his debut on his home ground at Harlequin, while Stacey has a great step and is a really energetic player.”
English and Shipperley will be joined by Luke Jones, however in his place on the reserves bench comes Sam Jeffries who will feature for the first time this season after returning from injury.
Injury rules out Tim Metcher, with Mike Tyler promoted to the starting lineup after impressing against Queensland Country, and Melbourne Uni prop Matt Onesemo one of four potential debutants on the bench.
The others are Melbourne Unicorns hooker Mitch Andrews, Harlequin scrumhalf Maradona Farao and Box Hill winger Filipe Vilitati, a member of the Island Breeze Rugby Plus program which last year unearthed current Melbourne Rebels star Sefanaia Naivalu.
Hilton said his side would need to improve, following their 39-31 victory over Queensland Country in Round One.
“It was good to start the campaign with a win, but we’re under no illusions that we will need to produce better than what we showed on Sunday to go far in this competition,” he said. “We’re really looking forward to getting out there at Harlequin and showing our passionate and dedicated Victorian Rugby community what we’re capable of achieving.”
Meanwhile, McInnes Wilson Lawyers Brisbane City head coach Nick Stiles has made two changes to his starting side to take on the Melbourne Rising in Round 2 of the Buildcorp National Rugby Championship this Saturday.
Captain Liam Gill has been released from the program for the week to play for the Barbarians against Samoa in London and has been replaced by GPS flanker Waita Setu. Centre Karmichael Hunt is also unavailable for selection this week due to a personal family matter. In his place is returning Easts centre Toby White, who featured heavily for Brisbane City in 2014. Scrumhalf Nick Frisby will captain the side in Gill’s absence.
Stiles has also made three changes to the bench, with club Rugby players Matt Mafi (Brothers), Ben Hyne (Brothers) and Michael Richards (GPS) all getting their first opportunities of the 2015 season.
Stiles said his side was looking forward to backing up its opening round performance with a strong showing against the Rising.
“I was pleased with a lot of aspects from last week’s win over Perth, but there’s obviously still a lot to work on and we’ve focussed on that this week,” he said.
“The Rising are a strong team and they too opened the competition with a win, so we expect a fiercely competitive match in Melbourne this weekend. They’ve got a lot of Rebels players in their squad and we know they’ll be hard at the breakdown and in the collisions and we’ve got to embrace that challenge.
“Liam was outstanding for us last week, but he’s been presented with a great opportunity to challenge himself and showcase his talents for the Barbarians on the international stage this weekend. He’ll be better for that experience and so will Brisbane City and the Reds in the long run.
“His absence also provides an opportunity for Waita (Setu) to step up into a starting role and that’s what this competition is all about – providing a pathway for players and building the depth of talent in Rugby in Queensland and Australia.”
This weekend’s match will see Brisbane City and Melbourne Rising contest the Horan-Little Shield, an initiative similar to New Zealand’s provincial Ranfurly Shield.
Launched by Australian Rugby Union ahead of the 2015 NRC season, the Horan-Little Shield is currently held by the Rising, as they were minor premiers in 2014. Whoever holds the Shield must put it up for challenge at every home fixture and the team holding the Shield at the end of the regular season will have its name engraved on it.
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Melbourne Rising team:
1. Mike Tyler (Power House, 1 Rising cap)
2. Pat Leafa (Box Hill & Rebels, 10 Rising caps)
3. Duncan Chubb (Southern Districts (NSW), 1 Rising cap)
4. Murray Douglas (Harlequin, 1 Rising cap)
5. Steve Cummins (Harlequin & Rebels, 1 Rising cap)
6. Jordy Reid (Melbourne & Rebels, 1 Rising cap)
7. Scott Fuglistaller (Moorabbin & Rebels, 1 Rising cap) (Captain)
8. Colby Fainga’a (Footscray & Rebels, 1 Rising cap) (Vice Captain)
9. Ben Meehan (Box Hill & Rebels, 4 Rising caps)
10. Jack Debreczeni (Endeavour Hills & Rebels, 10 Rising caps) (Vice Captain)
11. Stacey Ili (Melbourne Uni) *
12. Lloyd Johansson (Harlequin, 10 Rising caps)
13. Leo Taliu (Harlequin, 1 Rising cap)
14. Justin Marsters (Harlequin) *
15. Jonah Placid (Melbourne Uni & Rebels, 8 Rising caps)
16. Mitch Andrews (Melbourne) **
17. Fereti Sa’aga (Melbourne Uni, 3 Rising caps)
18. Matt Onesemo (Melbourne Uni) **
19. Sam Jeffries (Melbourne Uni & Rebels, 9 Rising caps)
20. Pom Simona (Harlequin, 9 Rising caps)
21. Maradona Farao (Harlequin) **
22. Sione Tuipulotu (Southern Districts, 1 Rising cap)
23. Filipe Vilitati (Box Hill) **
*Denotes Melbourne Rising debut
**Denotes potential Melbourne Rising debut
McInnes Wilson Lawyers Brisbane City team:
1. Pettowa Paraka – Reds/Easts
2. Andrew Ready – Reds/Easts
3. Sam Talakai – Reds/GPS
4. Corey Thomas - GPS
5. Cadeyrn Neville – Reds/Manly
6. Luke Beauchamp - Brothers
7. Waita Setu - GPS
8. Scott Higginbotham – NEC Green Rockets
9. Nick Frisby (C) – Reds/GPS
10. Jake McIntyre – Reds/Sunnybank
11. Alex Gibbon – Southern Districts
12. Samu Kerevi – Reds/GPS
13. Toby White - Easts
14. Chris Kuridrani – Reds/GPS
15. Junior Laloifi - Sunnybank
16. Matt Mafi - Brothers
17. Markus Vanzati - Souths
18. Feao Fotuaika - Sunnybank
19. Ben Hyne - Brothers
20. Michael Richards - GPS
21. Tim Smith - Wests
22. Henry Taefu - Sunnybank
23. Mika Tela - Souths