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Super Rugby teams R15: Reds near full strength, Paddy Ryan answers Tah SOS, Force's Donno blow, Kels on the wing

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29th May, 2024
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We’ve arrived at the final round of the regular season with plenty to play for and 11 of the 12 teams still in finals contention.

The Brumbies can finish anywhere from first to third while the Reds and Rebels are also locked in for the finals. The Force need a big slice of luck to progress while the Tahs have finished last.

Check out our guide to every team’s best and worst case scenario.

And all the team news will be updated below.

(All times in AEST)

Friday

Crusaders (10th) vs Moana Pasifika (11th), 5.05pm

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Crusaders coach Rob Penney has made three changes to the team that started against the Blues last weekend.

Midfielder David Havili, who was injured against the Blues, misses out Ryan Crotty takes over at No 12. Winger Sevu Reece has been replaced by Macca Springer. Tamaiti Williams takes the place of Fletcher Newell at tighthead prop.

Captain and lock Scott Barrett is still sidelined, while Joe Moody could be playing his final game for the franchise.

One of only a few changes sees Sekope Kepu start at tighthead prop in what’s shaping as a farewell game for Moana Pasifika.

Henry Taefu returns to the starting centre spot, Pepesana Patafilo shifts to the left wing and Jonathan Taumateine reclaims his position at halfback. Aisea Halo will bring impact off the bench. 

Scouted from the annual World Rugby Pacific Combine, promising Samoan prop Ivan Fepuleai is set to make his debut off the bench.

Head Coach Tana Umaga said: “We’re playing against the reigning champions and they’re desperate to make the top 8 as we are. They’ve got a lot more experience in these games than we have. We’ve got to grow and learn how to deal with those.”

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“The best way to learn is to get ourselves into a pressure situation of being able to play for a quarterfinal spot.”

CRUSADERS (1-15): Joe Moody, Codie Taylor (c), Tamaiti Williams, Antonio Shalfoon, Quinten Strange, Cullen Grace, Ethan Blackadder, Christian Lio-Willie, Noah Hotham, Fergus Burke, Macca Springer, Ryan Crotty, Dallas McLeod, Chay Fihaki, Johnny McNicholl

RESERVES: George Bell, George Bower, Owen Franks, Jamie Hannah, Tom Christie, Mitch Drummond, Taine Robinson, Heremaia Murray

PASIFIKA (1-15): Abraham Pole, Samiuela Moli, Sekope Kepu, Tom Savage, Allan Craig, Jacob Norris, Sione Havili Talitui (c), Lotu Inisi, Jonathan Taumateine, William Havili, Pepesana Patafilo. Julian Savea, Henry Taefu, Fine Inisi, Kyren Taumoefolau

RESERVES: Tomasi Maka, Ivan Fepuleai, Suetena Asomua, Ola Tauelangi, Alamanda Motuga, Aisea Halo, Christian Lealiifano, Nigel Ah Wong

Referee: Angus Gardner

Assistant Referees: Matt Kellahan, Jeremy Markey.

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Waratahs (12th) vs Reds (5th), 7.35pm

Former Tahs prop Paddy Ryan has answered an SOS call from Darren Coleman to face the Reds in the coach’s final game.

Ryan has been playing in Japan and previously played more than 100 times for the Tahs.

“It was great of Paddy to answer the SOS and his experience in the front-row will be invaluable,” Coleman said.

Paddy Ryan celebrates with the Waratahs

Paddy Ryan returns to the Tahs. (Photo by Mark Nolan/Getty Images)

Ned Hanigan has succumbed to a back complaint and won’t get a farewell game. Tom Ross and Lachlan Swinton have returned from injury to bolster the pack, with Miles Amatosero also promoted to the starting line-up.

In the backline, Jack Bowen has been given an opportunity to start his first Super Rugby Pacific match at flyhalf, with Tane Edmed dropping to the bench.

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“We’ve been looking for opportunities to give Jack a game during the year and now he gets his chance to start after a promising performance from the bench last week,” Coleman said. “I’m excited to watch him grow.”

Triston Reilly returns to the right wing with Izaia Perese reverting to the reserves list where Teddy Wilson also replaces Jack Grant.

“Teddy returns after his concussion protocols,” Coleman said. “We’ve been trying to give him more opportunities throughout the year to watch him develop further.”

The Reds named a strong team despite being unable to go higher or lower on the table than fifth. There was no place for Suli Vunivalu, who missed last week with suspension but could have returned.

Joe Brial and Connor Vest have been elevated to the starting pack. Brial starts at No.8 after four bench appearances.

Vest will start at lock in place of Ryan Smith, who is on the bench after playing more minutes than any other tight forward in Australia this season.

In the front-row, Wallaby Zane Nonggorr will start at tighthead ahead of Jeffery Toomaga-Allen.

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Lawson Creighton slots in at flyhalf with Tom Lynagh to enter the game from the bench at Allianz Stadium.

“Our focus is on the fact this is probably the most important game in the calendar for Australian rugby, the ‘Tahs v Queensland,” Reds head coach Les Kiss said of the Templeton Cup clash.

“From our point of view, we have to make sure we stay on task. This game is important. There’s a trophy up for grabs which we currently own and we want to make sure we do what is necessary to win it.”

WARATAHS (1-15): Paddy Ryan, Jay Fonokalafi, Tom Ross, Jed Holloway, Miles Amatosero, Lachlan Swinton, Charlie Gamble, Langi Gleeson, Jake Gordon (c), Jack Bowen, Dylan Pietsch, Lalakai Foketi, Joey Walton, Triston Reilly, Mark Nawaqanitawase

RESERVES: Ben Sugars, Lewis Ponini, Brad Amituanai, Hugh Sinclair, Fergus Lee-Warner, Jack Grant, Tane Edmed, Izaia Perese

REDS (1-15): Alex Hodgman, Matt Faessler, Zane Nonggor, Connor Vest, Seru Uru, Liam Wright (co-c), Fraser McReight, Joe Brial, Tate McDermott (co-c), Lawson Creighton, Mac Grealy, Hunter Paisami, Josh Flook, Tim Ryan, Jock Campbell

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RESERVES: Josh Nasser, Peni Ravai, Jeffrey Toomaga-Allen, Ryan Smith, John Bryant, Kalani Thomas, Tom Lynagh, Taj Annan

Referee: James Doleman

Assistant Referees: Jono Bredin, Fraser Hannon.

Saturday

Fiji (8th) vs Rebels (7th), 12.05pm

Andrew Kellaway has shifted from fullback to wing to allow a starting debut of Mason Gordon sat No.15 for the Rebels.

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Carter Gordon is back after missing last week’s big loss to the Brumbies, while Taniela Tupou, who escaped sanction after a citing this week, will play his 100th Super Rugby match.

Head Coach Mick Byrne has made five changes to the Dru starting line-up after the loss against the Highlanders. Headlining this week’s selections is the return of Frank Lomani after serving a six-match suspension.

Andrew Kellaway of the Rebels is tackled during the Super Rugby Pacific Pre-Season Match between Melbourne Rebels and Fijian Drua at Gosch's Paddock on February 16, 2024 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Daniel Pockett/Getty Images)

Andrew Kellaway . (Photo by Daniel Pockett/Getty Images)

DRUA (1-15): Haereiti Hetet, Tevita Ikanivere, Mesake Doge, Mesake Vocevoce, Leone Rotuisolia, Etonia Waqa, Kitione Salawa, Meli Derenalagi (c), Frank Lomani, Isaiah Armstrong-Ravula, Waqa Nalaga, Kemu Valetini, Iosefo Masi, Selestino Ravutaumada, Ilaisa Droasese.

RESERVES: Zuriel Togiatama, Livai Natave, Samu Tawake, Isoa Nasilasila, Motikiai Murray, Elia Canakaivata, Simione Kuruvoli, Caleb Muntz

REBELS (1-15): Isaac Kailea, Jordan Uelese, Taniela Tupou, Angelo Smith, Josh Canham, Josh Kemeny, Brad Wilkin, Rob Leota (c), Ryan Louwrens, Carter Gordon, Darby Lancaster, David Feiluai, Filipo Daugunu, Andrew Kellaway, Mason Gordon.

RESERVES: Ethan Dobbins, Matt Gibbon, Sam Talakai, Tuaina Taii Tualima, Maciu Nabolakasi, James Tuttle, David Vaihu, Jake Strachan

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Referee: Paul Williams

Assistant Referees: Dan Waenga, Mike Winter.

Hurricanes (2nd) vs Highlanders (6th), 2.35pm

Hooker Asafo Aumua returns after six weeks on the sidelines but the second-placed Hurricanes are still without captain Brad Shields and All Blacks prop Tyrel Lomax.

Aumua is back in the nick of time. Fellow hooker Raymond Tuputupu received a three-match ban on Wednesday for his high hit on Chiefs’ Tupou Vaa’i last week.

Lock Caleb Delany is out with injury, giving James Tucker a start, while DuPlessis Kirifi is the run-on No. 7 with Peter Lakai on the bench.

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There is one change in the backs where Salesi Rayasi starts his 50th Hurricanes match.

The Highlanders have made several changes, seemingly happy enough with a finals locked in at sixth or seventh.

Outside backs Jacob Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens and Timoci Tavatavanawai and loose forward Sean Withy are among those given a week off.

Coming into the side are halfback James Arscott for only his second start of the campaign and Finn Hurley, for a first start at No.15.

Winger Connor Garden-Bachop and centre Matt Whaanga have been promoted to start, as have loose forwards Nikora Broughton and Max Hicks and lock Will Tucker.

HURRICANES (1-15): Xavier Numia, Asafo Aumua, Pasilio Tosi, James Tucker, Isaia Walker-Leawere, Devan Flanders, Du’Plessis Kirifi, Brayden Iose, TJ Perenara, Brett Cameron, Salesi Rayasi, Jordie Barrett (c), Billy Proctor, Josh Moorby, Ruben Love

RESERVES: James O’Reilly, Pouri Rakete-Stones, Tevita Mafileo, Justin Sangster, Peter Lakai, Jordi Vijoen, Riley Higgins, Bailyn Sullivan

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HIGHLANDERS (1-15): Ethan de Groot (co-c), Henry Bell, Jermaine Ainsley, Will Tucker, Fabian Holland, Max Hicks, Billy Harmon (co-c), Nikora Broughton, James Arscott, Ajay Falegaga, Jona Nareki, Sam Gilbert, Matt Whaanga, Connor Garden-Bachop, Finn Hurley

RESERVES: Jack Taylor, Daniel Lienert-Brown, Saula Ma’u, Tom Sanders, Hayden Michaels, Folau Fakatava, Jake Te Hiwi, Martín Bogado

Referee: Nic Berry

Assistant Referees: Reuben Keane, George Myers.

Blues (1st) vs Chiefs (4th), 5.05pm

All Blacks halfback Finlay Christie is back on the bench after a groin injury. Taufa Funaki is retained at No. 9 while Christie returns to the 23 for the first time since March.

Caleb Clarke and Dalton Papali’i return to the starting lineup after being rested last week as the Blues try to make sure of top spot and a potential home grand final.

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The Blues will know after Friday night whether they need a bonus-point win against the Chiefs to confirm top spot.

Prop Marcel Renata will make his 50th Blues appearance as starting tighthead while Ricky Riccitelli replaces Kurt Eklund at first-choice hooker.

Chiefs powerhouse Samipeni Finau returns after a shoulder injury as Clayton McMillan has sat out All Blacks Tupou Vaa’i and Anton Lienert-Brown because of All Blacks rest protocols

Promoted to start are Daniel Rona and Rameka Poihipi as a midfield duo, promising No 8 Wallace Sititi and re-signed lock Naitoa Ah Kuoi.

One-test All Black Finau returns at blindside flanker and captain Luke Jacobson shifts to the openside among their loose forwards.

BLUES (1-15): Ofa Tu’ungafasi, Ricky Riccitelli, Marcel Renata, Patrick Tuipulotu (c), Sam Darry, Akira Ioane, Dalton Papali’i, Hoskins Sotutu, Taufa Funaki, Harry Plummer, Caleb Clarke, AJ Lam, Rieko Ioane, Mark Tele’a, Stephen Perofeta

RESERVES: Kurt Eklund, Joshua Fusitu’a, Angus Ta’avao, Cameron Suafoa, Adrian Choat, Finlay Christie, Corey Evans, Cole Forbes

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CHIEFS (1-15): Aidan Ross, Bradley Slater, George Dyer, Naitoa Ah Kuoi, Jimmy Tupou, Samipeni Finau, Luke Jacobson (c), Wallace Sititi, Cortez Ratima, Damian McKenzie, Etene Nanai Seturo, Rameka Poihipi, Daniel Rona, Emoni Narawa, Shaun Stevenson

RESERVES: Samisoni Taukei’aho, Ollie Norris, Sione Ahio, Simon Parker, Kaylum Boshier, Xavier Roe, Quinn Tupaea, Peniasi Malimali

Referee: Ben O’Keeffe

Assistant Referees: Stu Curran, Jackson Henshaw.

Force (9th) vs Brumbies (3rd), 7.35pm

Brumbies coach Stephen Larkham has added two fresh faces to the starting side and the bench for the visit to Perth.

Blake Schoupp returns after recovering from a shoulder injury suffered in Round 10, with James Slipper succumbing to a torn calf last weekend.

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Nick Frost and Tom Hooper switch roles after last week, with Frost now in the five jersey and Hooper in the six. Darcy Swain will continue at lock, whilst Rory Scott rejoins the squad at open-side flanker.

Connal McInerney and Harry Vella return to the 23 from the bench.

Wallabies lock Sam Carter is back for the first time since round 10 for the Force in a must win game.

The Force will be missing Wallabies flyhalf Ben Donaldson however with a tight groin.

Force captain Jeremy Williams shuffles into the back row to start at blindside flanker, with 16-cap Wallaby Carter partnering Izack Rodda at lock.

Jeremy Williams of the Force reacts after the loss during the round 15 Super Rugby Pacific match between Western Force and Chiefs at HBF Park, on June 03, 2023, in Perth, Australia. (Photo by James Worsfold/Getty Images)

Jeremy Williams. (Photo by James Worsfold/Getty Images)

Max Burey will start at flyhalf with Donaldson out. Front-rower Ryan Coxon also comes into the XV with Harry Hoopert unavailable due to a calf injury.

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Ben Funnell comes into the 23 among the finishers with a 6-2 split, with Chase Tiatia out with a shoulder injury.

FORCE (1-15): Ryan Coxon, Tom Horton, Santiago Medrano, Sam Carter, Izack Rodda, Jeremy Williams (c), Carlo Tizzano, Reed Prinsep, Nic White, Max Burey, Ronan Leahy, Hamish Stewart, Bayley Kuenzle, George Poolman, Kurtley Beale

RESERVES: Ben Funnell, Marley Pearce, Tiaan Tauakipulu, Lopeti Faifua, Will Harris, Michael Wells, Issak Fines-Leleiwasa, Sam Spink

BRUMBIES (1-15): Blake Schoupp, Billy Pollard, Allan Alaalatoa (c), Darcy Swain, Nick Frost, Tom Hooper, Rory Scott, Rob Valetini, Ryan Lonergan, Noah Lolesio, Corey Toole, Tamati Tua, Len Ikitau, Andy Muirhead, Tom Wright

RESERVES: Connal McInerney, Harry Vella, Sosefo Kautai, Cadeyrn Neville, Luke Reimer, Harrison Goddard, Jack Debreczeni, Ollie Sapsford

Referee: Jordan Way

Assistant Referees: Damon Murphy, Jordan Kaminski

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