NRC: Wallabies back for NRC semi-finals

by Marty Cambridge

Five Wallabies have been rushed back in but there’s more than one team hit by injury to key players. Here are the team lists for the Buildcorp NRC semi-finals.   

NSW Country Eagles (1) v Melbourne Rising (4)

Saturday 15 October, 3:00pm (AEDT) at Sportsground No. 2, Newcastle 

The minor premiers are massively boosted by the inclusion of Wallabies, Tom Robertson and Tolu Latu who returned from London earlier this week.  Robertson has featured in Michael Cheika’s match day 23 in the last three tests, while Latu’s NRC form was the reason he was picked for the tour in the first place.  It’s almost a full-strength Eagles outfit, except for the missing Ned Hannigan who is out ofthe finals campaign with an ankle injury.  Hannigan has been one of the Eagles best, with Rohan O’Reegan set to replace him in the second-row.  The competitions equal-leading try-scorer, Jake Gordon will again partner Andrew Deegan in the halves, the pair no doubt hoping to open some space for the Eagles’ star-studded backline.

The Rising aren't without an injection of firepower of their own, with Wallaby number 900, Sefa Naivalu to line-up on the wing. ‘Super Sefa’ lit up the NRC in its first season but has played just twice this season, his inclusion forcing a backline reshuffle that sees fellow capped-Wallaby Dom Shipperley move to fullback.  Jack Debreczeni returns to flyhalf after missing last week but will partner Mick Snowden in the halves after skipper, Nic Stirzaker was ruled out.  Reserve Wallabies hooker, James Hanson has also been named in coach, Zane Hilton’s match day 23 but could find himself playing in the backrow with two reserve hookers on the bench.

NSW Country Eagles

Starting 1-15: Paddy Ryan (c), Tolu Latu, Tom Robertson, Rohan O’Reegan, Tim Buchanan, Sam Figg, Rowan Perry, Sam Ward, Jake Gordon, Andrew Deegan, Alex Newsome, Kyle Godwin, David Horwitz, Reece Robinson, Andrew Kellaway.

Reserves: Folau Fainga’a, Jed Gillespie, Sam Needs, Ryan McCauley, Tom Cusack, Mark Baldwin, Tayler Adams, Angus Roberts.

Melbourne Rising

Starting 1-15: Toby Smith, Pat Leafa, Tyrel Lomax, Sam Jeffries, Alex Toolis, Ikapote Tupai, Jordy Reid, Colby Fainga’a, Mick Snowden, Jack Debreczeni, Jonah Placid, Sione Tuipulotu, Tom English (c), Sefa Naivalu, Dom Shipperley.

Reserves: James Hanson, Tom Moloney, Tim Metcher, Rob Valetini, Jordan Uelese, Keisuke Yamada, Taiso Silafai-Leaana, Ah-mu Tuimalealiifano.

Sefa Naivalu is a massive attacking threat for the Melbourne Rising. Photo Johan SchmidtCatch all the NRC action LIVE and EXCLUSIVE on FOX SPORTS.

Sydney Rays (2) v Perth Spirit (3)

Sunday 16 October, 3:00pm (AEDT) at Pittwater Park

The Rays welcome back Super Rugby experienced duo, Matt Lucas and Damien Fitzpatrick to the first XV after they were named in the reserves last week.  Lucas will again skipper the side from number nine, teaming up with Angus Sinclair in the halves, while Fitzpatrick slots straight back in at starting hooker. In other changes to the starting line-up, Michael Smith comes in at no.8 after Michael Wells sustained a knee injury that will see him watch the rest of the season from the sidelines.  Head coach, Simon Cron still yet to confirm the make-up of his reserves, with a decision expected after training on Thursday night.

There’s good news and bad news for the Western Australian side, with flyer Luke Morahan back from Wallabies duty to start at fullback.  However, they will be without last year’s Buildcorp NRC Player of the Season, Jono Lance who pulled up with a tight hamstring against the Vikings last weekend and hasn’t managed to prove his fitness.  It means Ryan Louwrens comes back into the starting side and will partner Western Force regular Ian Prior in the halves.

Sydney Rays

Starting 1-15: Ezra Luxton, Damien Fitzpatrick, Angus Ta’avao, Connor Vest, James Brown, Jack Dempsey, Chris Alcock, Michael Smith, Matt Lucas, Angus Sinclair, Harry Jones Irae Simone, Con Foley, Lochie Creagh, Josh Turner/Jonathan Malo.

Reserves: James Hilterbrand, Rory O’Connor, Alain Miriallakis/Lawrance Hunting, Adrian Hall, Harry Bergelin, Dewet Roos, Sam Lane, Jonathan Malo/Seb Wileman/Richard Woolf/Dennis Pili-Gaitau.

Perth Spirit

Starting 1-15: Pek Cowan, Heath Tessman, Jermaine Ainsley, Kieran Stringer, Onehunga Havili, Ross Haylett-Petty, Richard Hardwick, Brynard Stander, Ryan Louwrens, Ian Prior, Semisi Masirewa, Ben Tapuai, Billy Meakes, Marcel Brache, Luke Morahan. 

Reserves: Anaru Rangi, Laione Mulikihaamea, Shambeckler Vui, Grayson Knapp, Russell Burges, Michael Ruru, AJ Alatimu, Eric Vasukicakau

Catch all the NRC action LIVE and EXCLUSIVE on FOX SPORTS.