It's a crucial round of fixtures this week as the competition inches past the halfway point, with finals places on the line.
While many outfits headed into the NRC season with little time together as a group, teams are starting to gel after three weeks together and results are crucial.
The Western Force sit four points clear at the top of the ladder as the only team to have won all three games but face a test on Saturday against the Canberra Vikings, who bounced back from a loss to Queensland Country to post a fine victory against Brisbane and reinforce their reputation as contenders.
In the opening match of the round, defending champions the Fijian Drua host Sydney in Lautoka on Saturday just ahead of the Wallabies-Fiji World Cup clash, keen to notch a first win of the season.
The Drua have two draws and a loss to their name from the first three rounds but Sydney showed last week they will be no easybeats after defeating Queensland Country in a major upset.
Melbourne Rising are looking for their first points of the competition when they host Queensland Country at Ballarat, while Brisbane and the unbeaten NSW Country will slog it out in the final match of the round at Hugh Courtney Oval on Sunday afternoon.
Catch all four games LIVE on RUGBY.com.au, as well as Kayo, with the Drua-Sydney game also LIVE on Fox Sports at noon on Saturday.
ALL TIMES AEST
Saturday, September 21
12pm - Fijian Drua vs Sydney, Churchill Park, Lautoka, LIVE on RUGBY.com.au, Kayo and Fox Sports.
5pm - Western Force vs Canberra Vikings, UWA Sports Park, Perth, LIVE on RUGBY.com.au and Kayo
Sunday, September 22
1pm - Melbourne Rising vs Queensland Country, Mars Stadium, Ballarat, LIVE on RUGBY.com.au and Kayo
4pm - Brisbane City vs NSW Country, Hugh Courtney Oval, Wavell Heights, LIVE on RUGBY.com.au and Kayo
FIJIAN DRUA VS SYDNEY
The Drua are looking to notch their first win of the season after a heartbreaking draw with NSW Country last week after conceding an 81st-minute try to the Eagles in Wollongong.
With kick-off just under three hours before the Wallabies-Fiji clash at the World Cup, fans are sure to be at fever pitch in Lautoka, with Sydney facing a battle to get the points.
The Drua have not set the competition alight so far this season but played their best match last week, with the defending champions' flair coming out in a sign they are starting to gel in season 2019.
Sydney posted one of the upsets of the season with their win against last year's grand finalists Queensland Country and will be on the hunt for another scalp in Fiji.
Drua to face Sydney: 1. Joeli Veitayaki, 2. Tevita Ikanivere, 3 Mosese Ducivaki, 4 Tevita Naqali, 5. Epeli Radaniva, 6. Eremasi Radrodro, 7. Rusiate Nasova, 8. Johnny Dyer, 9. Peni Matawalu, 10. Caleb Muntz, 11. Nacanieli Narequva,, 12. Cyril Reece, 13 Poasa Waqanibau, 14. Aporosa Tabulawaki, 15. Eneli Tikotani. Reserves: 16. Ratunaisa Navuma, 17. Timoci Sauvoli, 18. Jone Koroiduadua, 19. Necani Nawaqadau, 20. Jone Navori, 21. Seru Vularika, 22. Peceli Nacebe, 23. Jiuta Wainiqolo.
Sydney to face Drua: (From) Ru MacKenzie, Rory O'Connor, Charles Abel, Ryan McCauley, Tuitakau Kioa, Sambeckler Vui, Jack Digby, Charlie Gamble, Jordan Goddard, Jacob Abel, James Ramm, Lalakai Foketi (c), Jaline Graham, Joe Cotton, Wayne Borsak, , Declan Moore, Christian Poidevin, Mitch Short, Tyson Davis, Ed Craig, Cameron Clark, Harry Burey, Jack Digby, Will Harrison.
WESTERN FORCE VS CANBERRA VIKINGS
Western Force head coach Tim Sampson has made just one change to his match-day 23 as he opts for stability in maintaining the club’s unbeaten start to the season.
Prop Tom Sherminant has been added to the reserves bench for the clash against Canberra Vikings at UWA Sports Park on Saturday with Dom Hardman unavailable through injury.
After enjoying a win at home last weekend, the Force is determined to make the most of a rare fortnight without having to traverse the country but are wary of a Vikings team that has plenty of experience and class, including a number of capped Wallabies.
The Vikings saw off the Force last year in Canberra, the 10-point winning margin the biggest in five meetings between the sides in the NRC competition. Every other game has been decided by a converted try or less, including the only time the sides have met in Perth back in 2015 where the visitors snatched a three-point win.
Canberra clawed their way to a thrilling one-point win over Brisbane last weekend and Sampson said there was experience and quality in their side.
"At the back end of games when the result is in the balance the ability to call on cool heads to control the game and make the right decisions pays off," he said.
"I think both sides have shown they’re able to do that so it will be very interesting if the game goes down to the wire.”
Force to face Vikings: 1. Harrison Lloyd, Orr, 2. Heath Tessman, 3. Dominic Hardman, 4. Fergus Lee-Warner. 5. Jeremy Thrush, 6. Henry Stowers, 7. Chris Alcock, 8. Brynard Stander, 9. Ian Prior (c), 10. Andrew Deegan, 11. Jonah Placid, 12. Nick Jooste, 13. Chris Tuatara, 14. Byron Ralston, 15. Jake Strachan. Reserves: 16. Andrew Ready 17. Cameron Orr, 18. Chris Heiberg, 19. Johan Bardoul, 20. 20. Tevin Ferris, 21. Issak Fines, 22. Grason Makara, 23. Leon Feke.
Vikings to face Force: 1. Fred Kaihea, 2. Lachlan Lonergan, 3. Nick Dobson, 4. Darcy Swain, 5. Blake Enever, 6. Pete Samu, 7. Luke Gersekowski, 8. Rob Valetini, 9. Joe Powell, 10. Noah Lolesio, 11. Mack Hansen, 12. Irae Simone, 13. Len Ikitau, 14. Andy Muirhead, 15. TBC. Reserves: 16. TP Luteru, 17. Bo Abra, 18. Angus Wagner, 19. Nick Frost, 20. Will Miller, 21. Ryan Lonergan, 22. Bayley Kuenzle, 23. George Morseu.
MELBOURNE RISING VS QUEENSLAND COUNTRY
Queensland Country have made six changes to the starting side that went down to Sydney last weekend.
In the forwards, prop Harry Hoopert returns having missed last weekend’s clash and backrower Dillon Wihongi will start at openside flanker having come off the bench in Sydney.
Warwick product Will Dearden, who grew up playing for Scots PGC College and the Warwick Water Rats, will make his NRC and Queensland Country debut starting in the second row alongside Harry Hockings.
In the backs, GPS stalwart Jonathan Kent will also make his NRC and Queensland Country debut on the left wing, while Chris Feauai-Sautia will return at outside centre, having been a late withdrawal from last weekend’s match. Tom Lucas will also earn his first start of 2019 at fullback, seeing Jock Campbell shift to the right wing.
Country coach Rod Seib said his side had worked hard to address the issues highlighted last week.
“We got beaten in the contact zone last weekend, so we’ve been focused on trying to improve our physicality and accuracy around our ball carry and ruck work," Seib said.
“This weekend the team have the chance to turn the result around and try to find the form that we showed in Round 2 against Canberra."
Rising to face Country: 1. Matt Gibbon, 2. Anaru Rangi, 3. Vaauli Faamausili, 4. Ross Haylett-Petty, 5. Esei Haangana, 6. TBC, 7. Richard Hardwick, 8. Rob Leota, 9. Theo Strang, 10. Rodney Iona, 11. Ahmu Tuimalealiifano, 12. James Sooialo, 13. Semisi Tupou, 14. Taylor Acheson, 15. Justin Marsters. Reserves: 16. Moli Sooaemalelagi, 17. Fereti Sa'aga, 18.Tetera Faulkner, 19. William Clift, 20. Ikapote Tupai, 21. Delai Moto, 22. William Lewesi, 23. Harry Potter.
Country to face Rising: 1. Harry Hoopert, 2. Matt Faessler, 3. Gavin Luka, 4. Will Dearden, 5. Harry Hockings, 6. Angus Scott-Young, 7. Dillon Wihongi, 8. Harry Wilson, 9. Tate McDermott, 10. Rohan Saifoloi, 11. Jonathan Kent, 12. Hamish Stewart, 13. Chris Feauai-Sautia, 14. Jock Campbell, 15. Tom Lucas. Reserves: 16. Bronson Fotualii, 17. Jethro Felemi, 18. Carter Ozanne, 19. Angus Blyth, 20. Connor Pritchard, 21. Reuben Wall, 22. Conor Chittenden, 23. Daniel Boardman.
BRISBANE CITY VS NSW COUNTRY
Brisbane have made seven changes to their starting XV after last week's one-point loss to Canberra, with Norths utility back Nick Chapman selected to make his NRC starting debut at fullback, while Tuaina Tualima and Rhys van Nek will also make their run-on debuts.
Dave Feao, Rob Puliuvea, Seru Uru and Sefa Naivalu round out the changes which coach Jim McKay said were a great opportunity for the players handed a start.
“We’ve been really pleased with Nick. He’s been involved in all of our games so far and is terrific at training," McKay said.
"He’s got a lot of versatility and he’s been rewarded on the back of some really strong club form."
City are determined to get the jump on the Eagles after notching a win, a draw and a one-point loss in their three games.
“We’ve been competitive every game so far which has reflected in our results, but there’s no doubt that we need to make our move now," McKay said of his team's finals chances.
“NSW Country are above us on the ladder so this weekend is an opportunity to keep progressing in the competition."
City to face Eagles: 1. Dave Feao, 2. Brandon Paenga-Amosa, 3. Rhys Van Nek, 4. Rob Puliuvea, 5. Tuaina Tualima, 6. Adam Korczyk, 7. Fraser McReight, 8. Seru Uru, 9. Moses Sorovi, 10. Isaac Lucas, 11. Jordan Luke, 12. Teti Tela, 13. Sefa Naivalu, 14. Lawson Creighton, 15. Nick Chapman. Reserves: 16. Maile Ngauamo, 17. Dane Zander, 18. Josh Nasser, 19. Ryan Smith, 20. Sam Wallis, 21. Phoenix Hunt, 22. Hunter Paisami, 13. Isaac Henry.
Eagles to face City: