The Waratahs have made the bold call of handing young Ben Donaldson a start at five-eighth to play the Force.
The NSW Waratahs have made the bold call of handing young Ben Donaldson a start at five-eighth to play the Western Force, despite him having no Super Rugby game-time this season.
Read on for all the team news from both the Australian and New Zealand competitions.
SUPER RUGBY AU, ROUND NINE
FORCE vs WARATAHS, Saturday 7.45pm AEST at HBF Park
Force coach Tim Sampson has shuffled his side with three changes in the starting lineup to take on the winless Waratahs.
Veteran Richard Kahui replaces Byron Ralston on the right wing after Ralston suffered a nasty head knock in last weekend’s victory over the Rebels.
And in a reworked backrow, Brynard Stander and Tim Anstee come in for Tomas Lezana (foot injury) and Fergus Lee-Warner respectively.
Hooker Feleti Kaitu’u said there was plenty of respect for NSW as they fight for a finals spot.
“There’s plenty of talent and depth in the Waratahs,” Kaitu’u said.
“We know the task at hand.”
Meanwhile, the Waratahs have sprung a surprise by naming youngster Ben Donaldson to start at five-eighth despite not having had any Super Rugby game-time this season.
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Donaldson has been picked ahead of Tane Edmed after Will Harrison succumbed to a hamstring injury.
Edmed’s club coach, Ben Batger, told the Sydney Morning Herald that the decision was “crazy.”
Donaldson has battled a quad injury this season but made his comeback for Randwick in the opening round of the Shute Shield last weekend.
The other change to the starting side sees Lachlan Swinton return for Jeremy Williams, with Hugh Sinclair moving from blindside flanker to lock.
“We know how physical the Force are going to be, up front they’re a very big forward pack,” Waratahs co-coach Chris Whitaker said.
“Generally, when you play the Force there’s a lot of ball in play time, so the big guys tend to tire out.
“So, we want to have some more cavalry up front, fresh legs and plenty of punch off the bench.”
FORCE (15-1): Jack McGregor, Richard Kahui, Tevita Kuridrani, Kyle Godwin (c), Jordan Olowofela, Domingo Miotti, Tomas Cubelli, Brynard Stander, Kane Koteka, Tim Anstee, Sitaleki Timani, Jeremy Thrush, Santiago Medrano, Feleti Kaitu’u, Tom Robertson
Reserves: Andrew Ready, Angus Wagner, Greg Holmes, Ryan McCauley, Fergus Lee-Warner, Ian Prior, Grason Makara, Jake Strachan
WARATAHS (15-1): Jack Maddocks, Alex Newsome, Izaia Perese, Lalakai Foketi, James Ramm, Ben Donaldson, Jake Gordon (c), Will Harris, Carlo Tizzano, Lachlan Swinton, Max Douglas, Hugh Sinclair, Harry Johnson-Holmes, David Porecki, Angus Bell
Reserves: Tom Horton, Te Tera Faulkner, Darcy Breen, Sam Caird, Jeremy Williams, Charlie Gamble, Jack Grant, Tane Edmed
REBELS vs BRUMBIES, Sunday 2pm AEST at AAMI Park
Rebels coach Dave Wessels has again tweaked his starting side as he searches for a way to resurrect his side’s slumping season.
Tom Pincus returns at fullback for Reece Hodge, who has a serious knee injury that could keep him out of action for up to 10 weeks.
Fit again Campbell Magnay is picked at inside centre ahead of Lewis Holland while Matt Gibbon gets the bod at loosehead prop ahead of Cabous Eloff.
Isi Naisarani could get his first action of the season after being named on an extended bench but Dane Haylett-Petty (concussion) remains on ice.
“We’ve missed three wins by the last play of the game, so we know we’re not far away, but we need to make sure we’re finishing off the moments we are creating, especially now being at the business end of the season,” Wessels said.
“Every point and every moment in the game matters, so we need to be aware of that.”
Meanwhile, Brumbies coach Dan McKellar has made five changes to his starting XV, including a first start of the season for halfback Ryan Lonergan.
A reshuffled loose forward trio features Rory Scott getting his first Super Rugby start at openside flanker, Rob Valetini moving to No.8 and James Tucker packing down on the blindside.
Bayley Kuenzle starts at inside centre ahead of Irae Simone while Scott Sio is preferred to James Slipper at loosehead prop.
“Ryan Lonergan gets a crack there at halfback with Scotty rotating in and freshen both Whitey (Nic White) and Slips up,” McKellar said.
“BK (Kuenzle) was very good in pre-season and unfortunately picked up an injury just before round one.
“He can certainly do a really good job at 10 like he did for us last season but 12 is his preferred position, so really pleased to see him a get a chance there this weekend.
“We know Melbourne will be hard on the ball, they’ve got a world class winger (Marika Koroibete), and a good 10 and captain (Matt To’omua) who will direct them around the park.”
REBELS (15-1): Tom Pincus, Frank Lomani, Stacey Ili, Campbell Magnay, Marika Koroibete, Matt To’omua (c), Joe Powell, Michael Wells, Richard Hardwick, Josh Kemeny, Trevor Hosea, Rob Leota, Pone Fa’amausili, James Hanson, Matt Gibbon
Reserves (from): Jordan Uelese, Cabous Eloff, Cameron Orr, Lucio Sordoni, Ross Haylett-Petty, Isi Naisarani, Brad Wilkin, James Tuttle, Lewis Holland, Glen Vaihu
BRUMBIES (15-1): Tom Banks, Andy Muirhead, Len Ikitau, Bayley Kuenzle, Tom Wright, Noah Lolesio, Ryan Lonergan, Rob Valetini, Rory Scott, James Tucker, Cadeyrn Neville, Darcy Swain, Allan Alaalatoa (c), Folau Fainga’a, Scott Sio
Reserves: Lachlan Lonergan, James Slipper, Tom Ross, Nick Frost, Will Miller, Nic White, Reesjan Pasitoa, Mack Hansen
SUPER RUGBY AOTEAROA, ROUND EIGHT
HIGHLANDERS vs BLUES, Friday 5.05pm AEST at Forsyth Barr Stadium
Josh Ioane will start at fullback for the Highlanders following an impressive cameo off the bench last weekend and a season-ending injury to Connor Garden-Bachop.
Garden-Bachop had been enjoying an eyecatching maiden season of Super Rugby but broke his wrist in the golden point loss to the Chiefs last weekend.
Ioane, also comfortable at five-eighth, is a ready-made replacement.
“Sometimes you get lucky and you get through a campaign with hardly any injuries, and sometimes you get a dozen,” Highlanders coach Tony Brown said.
“We’ve had season ending injuries that have put us under real pressure now but there are plenty of guys willing to step up.”
Meanwhile, Blues coach Leon MacDonald has made just one change to his starting lineup, with halfback Jonathan Ruru replacing Sam Nock.
Captain Patrick Tuipulotu remains out with a neck injury, with Tom Robinson continuing to lead the team in his absence.
HIGHLANDERS (15-1): Josh Ioane, Ngantungane Punivai, Sio Tomkinson, Scott Gregory, Jona Nareki, Mitch Hunt, Aaron Smith (co-c), Kazuki Himeno, Billy Harmon, Shannon Frizell, Josh Dickson, Bryn Evans, Siate Tokolahi, Ash Dixon (co-c), Ayden Johnstone
Reserves: Liam Coltman, Ethan de Groot, Josh Hohneck, Manaaki Selby-Rickit, Marino Mikaele-Tu’u, James Lentjes, Kayne Hammington, Michael Collins
BLUES (15-1): Stephen Perofeta, Mark Telea, Rieko Ioane, TJ Faiane, Caleb Clarke, Otere Black, Jonathan Ruru, Hoskins Sotutu, Dalton Papalii, Tom Robinson (c), Sam Darry, Gerard-Cowley-Tuioti, Ofa Tuungafasi, Luteru Tolai, Karl Tu’inukuafe
Reserves: Leni Apisai, Alex Hodgman, Nepo Laulala, Josh Goodhue, Akira Ioane, Finlay Christie, Harry Plummer, Bryce Heem
CHIEFS vs CRUSADERS, Saturday 5.05pm AEST at FMG Stadium Waikato
Chiefs coach Clayton McMillan has made the surprise decision to switch star fullback Damian McKenzie to five-eighth to take on the defending champion Crusaders.
McKenzie kicked the winning goal in golden point against the Highlanders last weekend and the change allows Chase Tiatia to start at fullback, with young playmaker Kaleb Trask dropping out of the squad.
“We’ve always known that Damo has the potential to go up to 10, and Chase has done some really good things for us at fullback,” McMillan said.
“It’s been going pretty well for us late in games, so this is the week we see if we can get the same result earlier.”
Meanwhile, power winger Leicester Fainga’anuku will start at outside centre for the Crusaders following the season ending injury to All Blacks star Jack Goodhue.
Goodhue will undergo surgery after suffering a “significant” knee injury against the Hurricanes, including a ruptured ACL.
Braydon Ennor remains sidelined as he continues his recovery from his own knee injury.
“He’s a wing that can play centre, there’s a bit of Tana (Umaga) about him,” Crusaders coach Scott Robertson said of Fainga’anuku.
“We can see he’s got that skillset where he can swap in and out… he’s a power 13 for us.”
Prop Joe Moody is also out with a toe injury although the Crusaders are hopeful that it won’t require surgery.
George Bower will start at loosehead while Robertson has also rested senior lock Sam Whitelock, who is the favourite to captain the All Blacks this year in the absence of the injured Sam Cane.
CHIEFS (15-1): Chase Tiatia, Jonah Lowe, Anton Lienert-Brown, Alex Nankivell, Etene Nanai-Seturo, Damian McKenzie, Brad Weber (c), Luke Jacobson, Lachlan Boshier, Mitchell Brown, Naitoa Ah Kuoi, Tupou Vaa’i, Angus Ta’avao, Samisoni Taukei’aho, Aidan Ross
Reserves: Nathan Harris, Ollie Norris, Sione Mafileo, Pita Gus Sowakula, Kaylum Boshier, Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, Bryn Gatland, Sean Wainui
CRUSADERS (15-1: Will Jordan, Sevu Reece, Leicester Fainga’anuku, David Havili, George Bridge, Richie Mo’unga, Mitchell Drummond, Ethan Blackadder, Tom Sanders, Scott Barrett (c), Quinten Strange, Mitchell Dunshea, Michael Alaalatoa, Brodie McAlister, George Bower
Reserves: Codie Taylor, Isileli Tu’ungafasi, Oli Jager, Luke Romano, Sione Havili Talitui, Bryn Hall, Dallas McLeod, Manasa Mataele
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