NRC: Country head west to take on Spirit

by Marty Cambridge

Queensland Country head west to take on Perth Spirit on Sunday afternoon as they search of their first win of 2016.

Coach Toutai Kefu making a number of changes as he searches for the perfect formula and with captain James Tuttle dropped to the bench, Conor Mitchell will skipper the side for the first time.

“He has played in every possible match for Queensland Country since joining the squad ahead of the 2015 season. He is a respected player within the squad on and off the field,” Kefu said.

Tuttle not the only regular starter on the reserves list, crowd-favourite Taniela Tupou and Reds stalwart Ben Daley also find themselves out of the first XV as Country try to get themselves off the bottom of the ladder.

“This week we’re looking to rotate some different players into the starting lineup and give guys a go who have been training well and contributing to the team,” Kefu said.

Conor Mitchell has played in every Queensland Country game over the three seasons of the Buildcorp NRC. Photo: ARU Media/Stu Walmsley“Injury and form also come into the selection decisions, but the playing group understand the thinking behind the selections, we’ve made that clear to them.

“We came close against the team at the top of ladder last weekend and we’ll be looking to build on that performance and improve the elements of the game that we can control as we take on Perth this Sunday.”

Perth currently sit just inside the top four and will be massively boosted by the inclusion of Wallaby Ben McCalman and Super Rugby regulars Ross Haylett-Petty, Ian Prior and Marcel Brache.

“I think it will be good to have those guys in the team in terms of giving confidence to the other guys around them,” Spirit coach Dwayne Nestor said.

“To have a Wallaby in Ben McCalman at No.8 is great, Ross Haylett-Petty coming back in adds to our lineout, Ian Prior’s leadership and work around the field is exceptional and Marcel Brache adds more class to our backline.”

Ian Prior has represented the Spirit 13 times before and has over 60 Super Rugby caps.  Photo: Getty ImagesÃ¥ The Spirit are looking for consecutive wins for the first time in 2016.

“It’s a stupid cliché but winning is a habit and so is losing. When you are going from win to loss it puts you on a real rollercoaster ride, so we need to make sure we are consistent and can put wins together back-to-back because it builds so much confidence,” Nestor said.

The Spirit backline remains mostly unchanged with Ryan Louwrens and Jono Lance pairing in the halves in every game this season.

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.

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