Melbourne Rising Pom Simona has shown faith in the team that delivered him a first NRC win of 2019 last week in Ballarat, making just one enforced change in his starting XV to take on Sydney.
After his man of the match performance in Ballarat, Luke Jones shifts to lock this week, replacing Ross Haylett-Petty who is overcoming concussion symptoms experienced during the teams win over QLD country.
The vacancy in the backrow is filled by Ikapote Tupai who comes onto the side of the scrum.
“It’s nice to have some consistency in terms of selection,” admitted Simona.
“You could see last weekend a greater fluency within our game and that’s because these guys have now had a bit of time playing alongside each other.
“Things are now starting to click for us on the field and the confidence we will have gained from the win in Ballarat gives us some great momentum going into the second half of the NRC.”
Despite the loss of Haylett-Petty, who has been one of the Risings best this campaign, Simona remains confident the forward pack can still offer a point of difference this Sunday.
“Our set piece was a real weapon for us in Ballarat and probably proved the difference in the end,” said Simona.
“Luke Jones’ presence at lineout time was a huge advantage for us and I was pleased with our performance at scrum time.
“Having Jermaine Ainsley return to the side this week will also give us a bit of punch off the bench and I know how desperate he’s been to return to the pitch since his injury layoff.”
Ainsley’s inclusion on the bench alongside Tetera Faulkner means the Rising will have two Wallaby props to call upon at Forshaw Rugby Park.
With the Rising sitting 4 points outside the top four, Simona knows a win is critical to keeping the Risings’ finals hopes alive.
“Our win in Ballarat was the perfect springboard for us to launch our climb up the ladder. The players can’t wait to get to Sydney and build off the success we had last weekend,” stated Simona.
Melbourne Rising team to take on Sydney at Forshaw Rugby Park, Sydney, on Sunday 29 September.
1. Matt Gibbon
2. Anaru Rangi
3. Vaauli Faamausili
4. Luke Jones
5. Esei Haangana
6. Ikapote Tupai
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
16. Mahe Vailanu
17. Tetera Faulkner
18. Jemraine Ainsley
19. Will Clift
20. Pat Morrey
21. Delai Moto
22. Will Lewesi
23. Navarre Haisila