Twelve Melbourne Rebels players have been named in the Melbourne Rising starting team ahead of the club’s first game of the National Rugby Championship on Saturday.
Headlined by Rebels captain Tom English, the side also includes five players who were recently selected for the Wallabies trial match, with Anaru Rangi, Matt Philip, Angus Cottrell, Richard Hardwick and Fereti Sa’aga all included in the squad.
New Rebels recruit Isi Naisarani will make his first appearance for the Rising, selected to start in the number eight role.
It will be a special occasion for Naisarani, along with Sefa Naivalu and Kiti Ratu, with all three Fijian players selected to play in front of friends and family.
Rising Head Coach Eoin Toolan says while preparations for the NRC season have been short, the squad has not compromised with the intensity of training.
“I think the players after three tough weeks of preparation are keen to play a game,” Toolan said.
“Some of the Super Rugby guys haven’t played since the final round of Super Rugby.”
A beautiful part of the NRC competition is the opportunity it gives amateur rugby players to mix it up with their professional counterparts.
Toolan paid tribute to how seamlessly players from different levels of rugby have integrated together in such a short amount of time.
However, with some squad members missing through Wallabies training camps, Toolan says Saturday’s game will be an important step in bringing the whole group together.
“I think probably the cohesion, bringing different people together from different backgrounds, from a professional environment to an amateur environment, and the eagerness of guys to help each other out is really pleasing,” Toolan said.
“I guess with the Wallabies players coming back, there’ll be a need for those guys to have a run out. Getting those guys up to speed with how we want to play is important.”
With the Rising squad possessing players who have hardened Super Rugby experience, most of this week’s preparations has focussed on harnessing that potential.
“We’ve got a lot of Super Rugby players in the pack, so there’ll be a big emphasis on our set piece this week, creating a strong platform for our backs will be important,” he stated.
“From a back perspective, once we’ve earned the right to go forward, we want to give the opportunity for a little bit of speed on the wing with Sefa (Naivalu), Engo’ (Tom English) and guys like Kiti Ratu and Sione Tuipulotu.”
Waiting for the Rising will be a proud and confident Fijian Drua outfit that will be backed by a vocal home crowd.
When the two sides met in last year’s NRC competition, the Fijians came out 24-45 winners over the Rising.
Toolan says his side must be switched on early to be ready for the power and pace the Drua side will bring.
“I think they’ve probably got multiple threats across their team,” he said.
“We’re going to have to be really on point early to deal with things like turnover ball and structured plays where they really come alive.”
“For us, it’s about controlling the Tempo of the game and playing it on our terms s much as we can.”
Melbourne Rising Team v Fijian Drua
Saturday 1st September 2018
Ratu Cakobau Park at 3pm
- Tetera Faulkner
- Anaru Rangi
- Jermaine Ainsley
- Matt Philip
- Trevor Hosea
- Angus Cotrell
- Richard Hardwick
- Isi Naisarani
- Harrison Goddard
- Archie King
- Tom English
- Billy Meakes
- Sione Tuipulotu
- Sefa Naivalu
- Justin Masters
- Andrew Tuala
- Fereti Sa’aga
- Mees Erasmus
- Esei Haangana
- Robert Leota
- Michael Ruru
- Kemu Valetini
- Kiti Ratu