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Super Rugby teams round 1: Fresh Rodda blow, Tahs forced into backline move after Foketi drama

22nd February, 2024
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22nd February, 2024
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Here we go. The teams are in for the opening round of the 2024 Super Rugby competition and potential Wallabies get their first shot at impressing new coach Joe Schmidt.

The Western Force and NSW Waratahs look set to make late changes from the announced teams. We will update the squads below when the clubs make the changes official.

Wallabies lock Izack Rodda’s highly-anticipated return looks set to be put on ice after he injured his quad at Western Force training on Wednesday.

Rodda, who has missed most of the past 18 months due to a series of stress fractures in his right foot, was named in the Force’s starting line-up for Friday night’s Super Rugby Pacific clash with the Hurricanes in Perth.

But those plans are now up in the air after Rodda injured his quad at training just moments after the team was released.

The 27-year-old will undergo scans to determine the extent of the damage.

Although he hasn’t been officially ruled out of the season-opening match just yet, it seems highly unlikely he’ll play.

Meanwhile, Foketi suffered an injury at Tahs training and was hospitalised on Thursday.

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The battle for the No.10 jersey is shaping up as a big one this season, and Queensland’s Tom Lynagh gets his chance to impress on the same weekend that two rivals Noah Lolesio and Carter Gordon go head-to-head and Wallabies incumbent Ben Donaldson debuts for the Force.

Scroll down to read all the teams and news:

Friday

Chiefs vs Crusaders, 5.05pm AEDT

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Chiefs forward Naitoa Ah Kuoi will start his 2024 DHL Super Rugby Pacific at home with a 50th milestone celebration.

The Bay of Plenty lock and loose forward debuted for the Gallagher Chiefs in 2020 and was named in the All Blacks XV squad last season. Well-known for his charismatic personality, Ah Kuoi has become a core part of the Chiefs.

Ah Kuoi said of his impending achievement: “It’s pretty cool man and I’m very grateful! I remember coming into the club and seeing the faces of the people who hit 50 games and thought man, imagine doing that! So yeah it’s a huge milestone for me and the people who have supported me on my rugby journey.”

Completing the tight-five this week alongside Ah Kuoi will be Aidan Ross, Bradley Slater, Reuben O’Neill and Tupou Vaa’i.

Captain Luke Jacobson will start in the No.8 jersey with Samipeni Finau and Kaylum Boshier rounding out the loose forwards. Xavier Roe will run out at halfback with Damian McKenzie commanding first-five.

The electric Etene Nanai-Seturo returns on the wing with Liam Coombes-Fabling and Shaun Stevenson completing the back three. Meanwhile, All Blacks Quinn Tupaea and Anton Lienert-Brown will assemble in the midfield.

Two newcomers will start for the Crusaders – No.10 Rivez Reihana is up against his former team while Levi Aumua starts at 13.

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Some big names are returning with George Bower and Sevu Reece back after long injury problems.

Chiefs (1-15): Aidan Ross, Bradley Slater, Reuben O’Neill, Naitoa Ah Kuoi, Tupou Vaa’i, Samipeni Finau, Kalyum Boshier, Luck Jacobson (c), Xavier Roe, Damian McKenzie, Etene Nanai-Seturo, Quinn Tupaea, Anton Lienert-Brown, Liam Coombes-Fabling, Shaun Stevenson.

Reserves: Samisoni Taukei’aho, Ollie Norris, George Dyer, Jimmy Tupou, Simon Parker, Cortez Ratima, Josh Ioane, Daniel Rona.

Crusaders (1-15): George Bower, George Bell, Tamati Williams, Scott Barrett (c), Quinten Strange, Dominic Gardiner, Tom Christie, Cullen Grace, Mitch Drummond, Rivez Reihana, Macca Springer, Dallas McLeod, Levi Aumua, Sevu Reece, Chay Fihaki.

Reserves: Quinten MacDonald, Joe Moody, Owen Franks, Jamie Hannah, Christian Lio-Willie, Noah Hotham, Taha Kemara, Ryan Crotty.

Rebels vs Brumbies, 7.35pm AEDT

Stephen Larkham has named a strong Brumbies outfit to take on the Rebels, with 11 Wallabies in total and eight in the starting XV.

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Following the departure of Pete Samu to France, Larkham has tweaked his backrow with Rob Valetini, Luke Reimer and Charlie Cale named.

Robbie Valetini of the Brumbies passes during the round two Super Rugby Pacific match between the Brumbies and the Fiji Drua at GIO Stadium on February 26, 2022 in Canberra, Australia. (Photo by Mark Nolan/Getty Images)

RobValetini of the Brumbies (Photo by Mark Nolan/Getty Images)

Four of the starting tight-five have played for the Wallabies, including James Slipper and Nick Frost, who will play his 50th Super Rugby match.

Ryan Lonergan captains the team in the absence of Allan Alaalatoa and he will partner Noah Lolesio in the halves.

Ollie Sapsford joins Wallabies star Len Ikitau, who was controversially not included in Eddie Jones’ World Cup squad, in the midfield.

Another controversial omission, Tom Wright, joins Andy Muirhead and Corey Toole in the back three.
The bench has a mixture of experience and raw talent, with Test front-rowers Billy Pollard and Blake Schoupp named.

Young halfback Klaton Thorn and versatile back Declan Meredith have also been selected on the bench.

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Taniela Tupou and Lukhan Salakaia-Loto will make their debuts for the Rebels, but Kevin Foote has sprung a surprise by naming the Tongan Thor on the bench.

The decision to bring Tupou says plenty about the Rebels’ depth, but the under-pressure Super Rugby franchise are clearly targeting a strong finish and have recognised the need for added reinforcements against a formidable looking Brumbies side.


Instead, Foote has named Sam Talakai at tight-head prop and he will pack down alongside fellow internationals Matt Gibbon and Jordan Uelese.

The exciting Josh Canham will partner Salakaia-Loto in the second-row, with Rob Leota making a welcomed return to start the year and captain the side.

One-capped England halfback Jack Maunder joins Carter Gordon in the halves, with fellow recruit Filipo Daugunu picked at outside centre.

Rebels (1-15): Matt Gibbon, Jordan Uelese, Sam Talakai, Josh Canham, Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, Josh Kemeny, Brad Wilkin, Rob Leota (c), Jack Maunder, Carter Gordon, Glen Vaihu, David Feliuai, Filipo Daugunu, Lachie Anderson, Andrew Kellaway.

Reserves: Alex Mafi, Isaac Kailea, Taniela Tupou, Tuaina Taii Tualima, Vaiolini Ekuasi, James Tuttle, Jake Strachan, Nick Jooste.

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Brumbies (1-15): James Slipper, Lachlan Lonergan, Rhys Van Nek, Nick Frost, Tom Hooper, Rob Valetini, Luke Reimer, Charlie Cale, Ryan Lonergan (c), Noah Lolesio, Andy Muirhead, Ollie Sapsford, Len Ikitau, Corey Toole, Tom Wright.

Reserves: Billy Pollard, Blake Schoupp, Sefo Kautai, Cadeyrn Neville, Jahrome Brown, Klayton Thorn, Declan Meredith, Tamati Tua.

Force vs Hurricanes, 10pm AEDT

Five starters will make the Western Force debut during Friday’s Super Rugby opener against the Hurricanes at HBF Park.

Indeed, lock Tom Franklin, back-rower Will Harris, halves Nic White and Ben Donaldson, and outside back Harry Potter have all been named to start.

But the headline is Izack Rodda’s return from a foot injury, with the 2019 World Cup Wallabies member making a welcomed return as new captain Jeremy Williams battles concussion symptoms. Rodda will partner Franklin in the second-row.

Cron hasn’t wasted any time injected his new halves either, with co-captain White named alongside his Wallabies teammate Ben Donaldson. Max Burey, the livewire threat who can also slot in at fly-half, has been named at fullback in a back three combination alongside Chase Tiatia and Potter.

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Ben Donaldson will debut for Force. (Chris Hyde, Getty Images)

Cron has opted for a forwards heavy bench, with Issak Fines-Leleiwasa and George Poolman the only backs.
Hooker Ben Funnell, lock Lopeti Faifua and prop Tiaan Tauakipulu are also in line to make their club debuts off the bench.

The Hurricanes have made a surprising call in the No.9 jersey with TJ Perenara rested and Cam Roigard on the bench.

Twenty-year-old Jordi Viljoen gets a start after impressing during the trials.

Captain Brad Shields is missing due to plantar fasciitis.

All Blacks prop Tyrel Lomax also starts on the bench behind Pasilio Tosi.

Force (1-15): Marley Pearce, Tom Horton, Santiago Medrano, Thomas Franklin, Izack Rodda, Michael Wells (co-c), Carlo Tizzano, Will Harris, Nic White (co-c), Ben Donaldson, Chase Tiatia, Hamish Stewart, Sam Spink, Harry Potter, Max Burey.

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Reserves: Ben Funnell, Charlie Hancock, Tiaan Tauakipulu, Lopeti Faifua, Tim Anstee, Ollie Callan, Issak Fines-Leleiwasa, George Poolman.

Hurricanes (1-15): Xavier Numea, Asafo Aumua, Pasilio Tosi, Caleb Delany, Isaia Walker-Leawere, Devan Flanders, Du’Plessis Kirifi, Peter Lakai, Jordi Viljoen, Brett Cameron, Kini Naholo, Jordie Barrett, Billy Proctor, Josh Moorby, Ruben Love.

Reserves: James O’Reilly, Pouri Rakete-Stones, Tyrel Lomax, Justin Sangster, Brayden Iose, Cam Roigard, Riley Higgins, Salesi Rayasi.

Saturday

Blues vs Drua, 2.35pm AEDT


Lock Josh Beehre will make his Blues debut while prop Angus Ta’avao and winger Caleb Clarke are both set for their 50th appearance for the Auckland outfit.

Beehre joins Sam Darry in the middle of the scrum, while Ta’avao packs down with Kurt Eklund and Joshua Fusitu’a in the first Blues front row of the season.

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Anton Segner gets a start at blindside flanker with captain Dalton Papali’i and Hoskins Sotutu round out the pack.

In the backs, Finlay Christie and Stephen Perofeta form a strong 9-10 partnership with Harry Plummer and Rieko Ioane pairing up in the centres. 

Clarke is joined by speedster Mark Tele’a on the wing with Zarn Sullivan rounding out the back three.

Mark Telea of the All Blacks runs through drills during a New Zealand All Blacks training session at INSEP training grounds on October 12, 2023 in Paris, France. (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

Mark Telea of the All Blacks runs through drills during a New Zealand All Blacks training session at INSEP training grounds on October 12, 2023 in Paris, France. (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

Two further Blues debuts await on the bench with lock Laghlan McWhannell and fullback Cole Forbes in contention for their first caps.

Blues (1-15): Joshua Fusitu’a, Kurt Eklund, Angus Ta’avao, Sam Darry, Josh Beehre, Anton Segner, Dalton Papali’i, Hoskins Sotutu, Finlay Christie, Stephen Perofeta, Caleb Clarke, Harry Plummer, Rieko Ioane, Mark Tele’a, Zarn Sullivan.

Reserves: Ricky Riccitelli, Jordan Lay, Marcel Renata, Laghlan McWhannell, Adrian Choat, Sam Nock, AJ Lam, Cole Forbes.

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Drua (1-15): Livai Natave, Tevita Ikanivere, Mesake Doge, Isoa Nasilasila, Leone Rotuisolia, Etonia Waqa, Ella Canakaivata, Meli Derenalagi (c), Frank Lomani, Isaiah Armstrong-Ravula, Selestino Ravutaumada, Apisalome Vota, Iosefo Masi, Epeli Momo, Isikeli Rabitu.

Reserves: Mesulame Dolokoto, Emosi Tuqiri, Jone Koroiduadua, Mesake Vocevoce, Vilive Miramira, Peni Matawalu, Kemu Valetini, Tudraki Samusamuvodre.

Highlanders vs Moana Pasifika, 5.05pm AEDT

The Highlanders have named five debutants and left out All Black Ethan de Groot.

De Groot is coming back from a knee injury but coach Clarke Dermody said was available for selection.

Highlanders (1-15): Daniel Lienert-Brown, Henry Bell, Saula Ma’u, Pari Pari Parkinson, Fabian Holland, Sean Withy, Billy Harmon (c), Hugh Renton, Folau Fakatava, Rhys Patchell, Jona Nareki, Sam Gilbert, Tanielu Tele’a, Timoci Tavatavanawai, Jacob Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens.

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Reserves: Jack Taylor, Ayden Johnstone, Jermaine Ainsley, Oliver Haig, Nikora Broughton, Nathan Hastie, Cameron Millar, Jonah Lowe.

Moana Pasifika (1-15): James Lay (c), Sama Malolo, Sione Mafileo, Tom Savage, Samuel Slade, Miracle Faiilagi, Alamanda Motuga, Lotu Inisi, Ereatara Enari, William Havili, Viliami Fine, Julian Savea, Pepesane Patafilo, Nigel Ah Wong, Danny Toala.

Reserves: Samiuela Moli, Abraham Pole, Suetena Asomua, Allan Craig, Jacob Norris, Aisea Halo, D’Angelo Leuila, Anzleo Tuitavuki.

Reds vs Waratahs, 8.05pm AEDT

As revealed by The Roar, Tom Lynagh has won the race to wear the No.10 jersey.

The 20-year-old sharp-shooter returned from injury during the Reds’ trial win over the Waratahs in Roma earlier this month.

With James O’Connor out with injury, Lynagh faced some stiff competition from teenager Harry McLaughlin-Phillips to get first crack in the role. But Les Kiss has opted for the incumbent, whose skill set and goal-kicking prowess could come in handy in what’s expected to be a tight match.

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“I do feel I learnt a lot from last season in our good moments as a team and also in the tough losses. Taking a bit more control on the field is one area of development,” Lynagh said.

Kiss has named former All Blacks prop Alex Hodgman at loose-head prop in an all-international front-row.
In other significant team news, Jordan Petaia has edged out Jock Campbell to start at fullback.

Hunter Paisami will join Josh Flook in a well balanced midfield combination, with Suliasi Vunivalu partnering young gun Mac Grealy on the wings.

Darren Coleman waited two years to find a second-rower with some physical prowess. Now having lured Miles Amatosero back from France, the under-pressure coach hasn’t wasted any time in throwing the 21-year-old into the firing line for NSW.

Amaotsero is one of two new figures in the forward pack, with Scone-born versatile forward Fergus Lee-Warner starting at blindside flanker in the absence of the injured Lachie Swinton.

It’s a largely familiar back line, with Joey Walton, as forecast, the only surprise selection at fullback. Max Jorgensen, who was taken to the World Cup but is coming back from another injury, is being eased back via the bench.

Elsewhere, it’s an experienced bench with recruit Theo Fourie in line to make his debut with incumbent Wallabies captain Dave Porecki injured. He is joined by fellow front-rowers Hayden Thompson-Stringer and Daniel Botha on the bench. Teddy and Harry Wilson have also been named on the bench.

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Reds (1-15): Alex Hodgman, Matt Faessler, Zane Nonggorr, Seru Uru, Ryan Smith, Liam Wright, Fraser McReight, Harry Wilson, Tate McDermott, Tom Lynagh, Mac Grealy, Hunter Paisami, Josh Flook, Suliasi Vunivalu, Jordan Petaia.

Reserves: Josh Nasser, Peni Ravai, Sef Fa’agase, Cormac Daly, John Bryant, Kalani Thomas, Harry McLaughlin-Phillips, Jock Campbell.

Waratahs (1-15): Angus Bell, Mahe Vailanu, Harry Johnson-Holmes, Jed Holloway, Miles Amatosero, Fergus Lee-Warner, Charlie Gamble, Langi Gleeson, Jake Gordon (c), Tane Edmed, Dylan Pietsch, Lalakai Foketi, Izaia Perese, Mark Nawaqanitawase, Joey Walton.

Reserves: Theo Fourie, Hayden Thompson-Stringer, Dan Botha, Sam Thomson, Hugh Sinclair, Teddy Wilson, Harry Wilson, Max Jorgensen

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