NRC: Gold medalist to shine for Rams

by Marty Cambridge

The Western Sydney Rams will be looking for their first win of the season as they host the Perth Spirit at Concord Oval on Saturday afternoon.

The Rams have been impressive in their opening two matches, against defending premiers Brisbane City and ladder-leaders Sydney Rays but have lacked the finishing touch to get themselves over the line.

Perth Spirit, on the other hand, had a good win in round one before slipping against the Rays and face a second consecutive trip to Sydney.

Western Sydney are massively boosted by the inclusion of Fiji Sevens Olympic gold medallist Vatemo Ravouvou, who only arrived in Australia at the beginning of the week but has been named to start at fullback.

Hooker Brandon Paenga-Amosa has crossed the line three times already this season and will start for the third straight week as Waratahs deputy Hugh Roach continues to battle injury.

The Spirit have named a 13-10 split of club to Super Rugby contracted players for the clash in a move coach Dwayne Nestor thinks will boost the energy of the squad.

“I think it’s awesome that we have so many club guys in the team this week,” Nestor said.

“I’ve said it before, the enthusiasm the club guys bring to the group and the skill level they are bringing is really good and a huge benefit to the team.”

“For the club guys to come in and show their willingness to learn and develop alongside the professional guys is fantastic and I’m loving that we have them in the group and are giving them an opportunity.”

Eric Vasukicakau is just one of a number of debutants for Perth Spirit so far in 2016. Photo: Getty Images. Perth struggled in the wet against the Rays last weekend, the forwards finding it hard to lay a platform for the likes of Jono Lance in the backline, an obstacle Nestor hopes they can overcome against the Rams.

“The Rams are a big unit, they have some big guys and we will have to match their physicality,” Nestor said.

“If we can do that it will stand us in good stead and I think the team knows that it will be a key area on Saturday.

“One of our focus points over the last few weeks has been on winning collisions, if you aren’t winning the collisions then you aren’t winning rugby games.”

Nestor has named James Wepener to make his \NRC debut from the wing and has also picked possible first-gamers Tom Sheminant and Russell Burges as reserves.

Ryan Louwrens will be keen for more front-foot football against the Rams. Photo: Getty Images

Western Sydney Rams

Starting 1-15: Matt Gibbon, Brandon Paenga-Amosa, David Lolohea, Filimone Tufui, Senio Toleafoa, Ngaruhe Jones, Tupou Sopoaga, Rhys Allen, Scott Gale, Paul Asquith (c), Luke Smart, Apolosi Latunipulu, Samuel Denny Godinet, Rob Buaserau, Vatemo Ravouvou.

Reserves: Aaron Blacklock, Andrew Tuala, Jack Payne, Taunaola Kei, Thomas Alexander, Harrison Goddard, Mitchell Walton, Albert Nikoro.

Perth Spirit

Starting 1-15: Laione Mulikihaamea, Harry Scoble, Shambeckler Vui, Kieran Stringer, Onehunga Havili, Brynard Stander, Kane Koteka, Richard Hardwick, Ryan Louwrens, Jono Lance (c), Eric Vasukicakau, Bill Meakes, Ammon Matuauti, James Wepener, Manihera Eden.

Reserves: Tom Sheminant, Mees Erasmus, Chris Heiberg, Russell Burges, Hadleigh May, Michael Ruru, Aj Alatimu, Ben Tapuai.

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