Two months ago Toby Smith was playing for the Wallabies.
Now the international prop, set to head to the Hurricanes in 2018, will come off the bench for the Melbourne Rising in their final hitout before the NRC kicks off
Despite signing in New Zealand, Smith is locked in to play in Melbourne for the rest of the season, adding some more star power to an already Super Rugby-packed squad.
Rebels captain Nic Stirzaker is among the other Super Rugby capped players set to suit up in the hitout on Saturday.
Stirzaker will be at scrumhalf in the pre-NRC clash with state side the Victorian Axemen, who have been resurrected after a 10-year hiatus, that will be played over four 20-minute quarters.
Also starting for the Rising will be Rebels including forwards Tom Moloney, James Hanson, Fereti Sa’aga, Steve Cummins and Esei Ha’angana and backs Sione Tuipulotu, Semisi Tupou and Jack Maddocks.
Coming on at half-time will be Siliva Siliva, Angus Arundel, Emmanuel Meafou, Ikapote Tupai, Sione Taufa, Harrison Goddard, Maradona Farao, Oliva Sialau, Angelo Leaupepe and Smith.
Outside the Super Rugby realm, there’ll be some eye catching Dewar Shield talent in the mix, with the competition’s player of the year Simei Kolio and the leading pointscorer Kitione Ratu in the 25.
Coach Zane Hilton said the result would be irrelevant for the Rising in their first 2017 hitout, more focused on progress as a team.
“The score line won’t define success for us on Saturday,” he said.
“This game against the Axemen is about fine-tuning our structures and processes in preparation for the opening round of the NRC next weekend against the Spirit.
“The biggest thing of all, this game is about providing the state’s best and most promising talent with the opportunity to step up to the next level and continue their rugby development in a competitive environment.
“It should be a proud day for the Victorian rugby family to see the return of the Axemen program and I expect that they’ll come out firing from kick-off to test themselves against the Rising.”
The Rising will take on the Axemen at Ashwood Park on Saturday, kicking off at 1pm AEST.
Melbourne Rising to face Victoria Axemen
1. Tom Moloney
2. James Hanson
3. Fereti Sa’aga
4. Steve Cummins
5. Esei Haangana
6. Josh Fenner
7. Mahe Vailano
8. Simei Kolio
9. Nic Stirzaker
10. Lloyd Johansson
11. Semisi Tupou
12. Sione Tuipulotu
13. Hunter Paisami
14. Kitione Ratu
15. Jack Maddocks