NRC: Eagles and Spirit kick-off massive NRC double header

by Marty Cambridge

Orange’s loss is Sydney’s gain with wet weather forcing the NSW Country Eagles to relocate their home game from Endeavour Oval to Concord Oval at the last minute due to inclement weather. 

The change makes Saturday at Concord Oval the first ever NRC double header with kick-off at 1:00pm, directly before the Western Sydney Rams take on Queensland Country.

It will no doubt be a tough contest, with the Eagles hoping to stay unbeaten for the season while Perth are coming off back-to-back wins. 

Eagles head coach Darren Coleman upset his side won’t be playing in Orange this weekend but knows at the end of the day he has to prepare his side for 80 minutes of rugby.

“We’re massively disappointed not to be playing there (in Orange),” he said.

“We’d really like to be heading out there, it’s part of our team mantra that we represent country rugby and especially there, where they hosted a game last year and did it really well.

“We still have a game of footy to play and there’s no doubt they’ll be coming over with the intention to win.”

The Eagles played in Tamworth in Round Three of the Buildcorp NRC. Photo: AFP PhotographyColeman has made a number of changes to the undefeated side, with Sam Figg unavailable due to Sevens commitments, Tom Cusack will get a start, while in-form flyhalf Andrew Deegan has been replaced in the number 10 jersey by Tayler Adams.

Perth have also mixed things up, Western Force regulars Brynard Stander and Ben Tapuai return to the first XV but they’ll be without influential scrumhalf Ryan Louwrens who will be rested for the match.

However they are boosted by the second consecutive inclusion of Wallaby Ben McCalman for the game head coach Dwayne Nestor thinks could define his side’s seasn.

“We are going to have to play 80-minutes of rugby this weekend to be a chance of leaving with the win,” Nestor said.

“If we drop off against these guys defensively then they will punish us.

“The team understands that this is the biggest game of the season so far. The message in our review sessions, at training and in preparation for this week is that we have to fix some things up for a big challenge this week and I’m confident our boys will step up to the plate.”

Wallaby Ben McCalman is looking for match fitness in the NRC as he looks to break back into the national squad. Photo: ARU Media/Stu Walmsley

NSW Country Eagles

Starting 1-15: Paddy Ryan (c), Tolu Latu, Sam Needs, Ned Hanigan, Tim Buchanan, Tom Cusack, Mark Baldwin, Sam Ward, Jake Gordon, Tayler Adams, Alex Newsome, Tom Hill, David Horwitz, Reece Robinson, Angus Roberts.

Reserves: Folau Fa’ainga, Jed Gillespie, Cameron Betham, Rohan O’Regan, Sam Croke, Rowan Perry, Andrew Deegan, Tom Hill.

Perth Spirit

Starting 1-15: Laione Mulikihaamea, Harry Scoble, Shambeckler Vui, Kieran Stringer, Ross Haylett-Petty, Brynard Stander, Hadleigh May, Ben McCalman, Michael Ruru, Jono Lance (c), Eric Vasukicakau, Ben Tapuai, Ammon Matuauto, Marcel Brache, Manihera Eden.

Reserves: Tom Sheminant, Nick McLennan, Jermaine Ainsley, Onehunga Havili, Russell Burges, Ian Prior, AJ Alatimu, Louie David.

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