NRC: Ben McCalman headlines the inclusions for round four of the NRC

by Marty Cambridge

There's been plenty of changes from the coaches heading into round four of the Buildcorp NRC.  There's top spot on the line as well as some team's fighting to keep their finals hopes alive.  

Sydney Rays (1) v NSW Country Eagles (2)

Saturday 17 September, 1:00pm at Pittwater Park

The ladder-leading Sydney Rays will welcome back Waratahs flanker Jack Dempsey from suspension for the top of the table clash against the Country Eagles.  Dempsey was suspended for two weeks after being shown red in round one. Con Foley has been named at outside centre but will have to get the all clear later in the week after his head knock against Queensland Country while flyer Harry Jones will miss the match with a quad injury.

The also unbeaten Eagles have made just two changes to the side that dismantled Melbourne in Tamworth.  Prop Tom Robertson has been included on Michael Cheika’s bench for the Wallabies, giving Sam Needs the opportunity to start in the front row and Cameron Betham a spot in the reserves.

Sydney Rays

Starting 1-15: Rory O’Connor/Ezra Luxton, Damien Fitzpatrick, Lawrance Hunting, Connor Vest, Nick Palmer, Jack Dempsey, Will Miller, Michael Wells, Matt Lucas (c), Angus Sinclair, Johnathan Malo/Josh Turner, Irae Simone, Con Foley, Josh Turner/Seb Wileman, Cameron Clark.

Reserves: James Hilterbrand, Rory O’Connor/Ezra Luxton, Mitch Lewis, Adrian Hall/Michael Smith, James Brown, Dewet Roos, Sam Lane, Seb Wileman/Josh Turner/Dennis Pili-Gaitau.

NSW Country Eagles

Starting 1-15: Paddy Ryan (c), Tolu Latu, Sam Needs, Ned Hanigan, Tim Buchanan, Sam Figg, Rowan Perry, Sam Ward, Jake Gordon, Andrew Deegan, Alex Newsome, Kyle Godwin/Tom Hill, David Horwitz, Reece Robinson, Angus Roberts.

Reserves: Jed Gillespie, Folau Fa’ainga, Cameron Betham, Ryan McCauley, Mark Baldwin, Sam Croke, Tayler Adams, Tom Hill/Kyle Godwin, Tom Cusack (one to be omitted)

Jack Dempsey tackles Paul Asquith in round one.  Photo: Getty Images.Stream online via

Melbourne Rising (5) v Brisbane City (6)

Saturday 17 September, 3:00pm at Harlequins Oval

Melbourne Rising coach Zane Hilton has made five changes to the side that went down the NSW Country Eagles last weekend. Captain Nic Stirzaker and winger Ah-Mu Tuimalealiifano return from injury with Ikapote Tupai and Lloyd Johansson both getting their first starts.  Isaiah Leota is named on the bench as Dom Shipperley will have to wait at least more week before making his comeback from a knee injury. 

Defending Premiers Brisbane City have made four changes as they look to get their title defence back on track. Leroy Houston has returned to Bath in England on a short term contract with coach Rod Seib appointing Criff Tupou to the backrow in his place, while Toby White will return to the number 13 jersey.  Queensland Under-20s backrower Tuaina Tualima has the potential to make his NRC debut after being named on the bench.

Melbourne Rising

Starting 1-15: Cruze Ah Nau, Pat Leafa, Tim Metcher, Sam Jeffries, Alex Toolis, Jordy Reid, Ikapote Tupai, Harley Fox, Nic Stirzaker, Ben Meehan, Ah-Mu Tuimalealiifano, Lloyd Johansson, Tom English, Jonah Placid, Jack Debreczeni.

Reserves: Siliva Siliva, Tom Moloney, Tyrel Lomax, Steve Cummins, Rob Leota, Mick Snowden, Sione Tuipulotu, Isaiah Leota.

Brisbane City

Starting 1-15: Pettowa Paraka, Andrew Ready, Sam Talakai (c), Luke Beauchamp, Lukhan Tui, Criff Tupou, Michael Gunn, Isi Naisarani, Nick Frisby, Jake McIntyre, Alex Gibbon, Patrick James, Toby White, Chris Kuridrani, Brad Lacey.

Reserves: Matt Mafi, Markus Vanzati, Feao Fotuaika, Jeremiah Lynch, Tuaina Tualima, Moses Sorovi, Mitch Felsman, Brendan Mitchell.

Nic Stirzaker will return from injury this weekend. Photo: ARU Media/Stu Walmsley.Catch all the NRC action LIVE and EXCLUSIVE on FOX SPORTS.

UC Vikings (3) v Western Sydney Rams (7)

Sunday 18 September, 1:00pm at Viking Park

The Vikings have recalled a number of players to the starting side after their win over Brisbane City last weekend. Captain Jarrad Butler and promising young halfback Joe Powell both included in the first XV while Nick Jooste will line-up in the unfamiliar position of fullback. Robbie Coleman will retain the flyhalf spot as the Vikings defend the Horan-Little Shield they snatched from City in the last round. 

The Rams have named former Wallaby and Western Force veteran Nathan Charles to make his NRC debut and comeback from shoulder injury against the Crusaders in April. Fijian Olympic gold medallist Vatemo Ravouvou will make his second consecutive appearance for the Rams as they look for their first win of 2016. 

UC Vikings

Starting 1-15: Sione Taula, Robbie Abel, Leslie Leulua’iali’i-Makin, Blake Enever, Sam Carter, Tom Staniforth, Dean Oakman-Hunt, Jarrad Butler (c), Joe Powell, Robbie Coleman, Lausii Taliauli, Jordan Jackson-Hope, Andrew Smith, Andrew Robinson, Nick Jooste.

Reserves: Connal McInerney, Faalelei Sione, Ray Dobson, OJ Noa, Darcy Swain, Brent Hamlin, Jake Rakic, Jamie Kotz.

Western Sydney Rams

Starting 1-15: Matt Gibbon, Brandon Paenga-Amosa, David Lolohea, Filimone Tufui, Vaitoa Senio Toleafoa, Rhys Allen, Tupou Sopoaga, Tyrone Viiga, Scott Gale, Paul Asquith (c), Luke Smart, Mau David Minute, Apolosi Latunipulu, Albert Nikoro, Vatemo Ravouvou.

Reserves: Nathan Charles, Harrison Lloyd, Jack Payne, Thomas Alexander, Jodan Tuapou, Waldo Wessels, Mitchell Walton, Rob Buaserau.

Joe Powell has been recalled to the starting XV. Photo: Getty Images. Stream online via

Perth Spirit (4) v Queensland Country (8)

Sunday 18 September, 3:00pm at UWA Sports Park

Wallaby Ben McCalman will make his Buildcorp NRC debut as he continues his recovery from injury, named alongside four Western Force Super Rugby players in the Perth Spirit side.  Ross Haylett-Petty, Ian Prior and Marcel Brache will all also line-up this weekend as the Spirit go in search of back-to-back wins for the first time in 2016.  Luke Morahan will also start for the side that looks to be its strongest of the season.

Queensland Country head coach Toutai Kefu has seen enough after losing three on the trot and has rung in the changes ahead of the clash in Perth. Scrumhalf and Australian Under-20s captain James Tuttle dropped to the bench along with the up-and-comer Taniela Tupou and Super Rugby veteran Ben Daley.  Flanker Conor Mitchell will captain the side and is one of seven changes to the side that features two new starting props, while Phil Potgeiter will replace Wallabies-bound Rob Simmons. 

Perth Spirit

Starting 1-15: Laione Mulikihaamea, Harry Scoble, Shambeckler Vui, Kieran Stringer, Onehunga Havili, Ross Haylett-Petty, Kane Koteka, Ben McCalman, Ryan Louwrens, Jono Lance (c), Eric Vasukicakau, Bill Meakes, Ammon Matuauto, Marcel Brache, Luke Morahan.

Reserves: Tom Sheminant, Mees Erasmus, Jermaine Ainsley, Russell Burges, Hadleigh May, Ian Prior, Ben Tapuai, AJ Alatimu.

Queensland Country

Starting 1-15: Sef Fa’agase Alex Casey, Kirwan Sanday, Izack Rodda, Phil Potgieter, Ted Postal, Conor Mitchell (c), Angus Scott-Young, Issak Fines-Leleiwasa, Mitch Third, Liam McNamara, Duncan Paia’aua, Izaia Perese, Tyrone Lefau, Tom Banks.

Reserves: Feleti Kaitu’u, Ben Daley, Taniela Tupou, Maclean Jones, Jack Cornelsen, James Tuttle, Mack Mason, Tom Pincus. 

Luke Morahan has been key in attack for Perth Spirit. Photo: Karen Watson.Catch all the NRC action LIVE and EXCLUSIVE on FOX SPORTS.