USA EAGLES hooker James Hilterbrand will get his first start of the 2017 National Rugby Championship season when the Macquarie Uni Sydney Rays take on Brisbane City at Pittwater Rugby Park on Sunday.
The 28-year-old Hilterbrand has worked off the bench for all of the Rays game so far this year but gets the chance to start a game with skipper Damien Fitzpatrick heading to the bench.
Hilterbrand has played 13 Tests for the USA Eagles after making his debut against Canada in 2016 and is a vital part of the Rays match day 23.
He has played a major role in the success of the Manly Marlins in recent seasons and will team with big Dave Lolohea and Wayne Borsak in the front row this weekend.
The Rays scrum has come under pressure in recent rounds and Hilterbrand will be keen to make this part of the game as seamless as possible when he is on the field.
Rays head coach Julian Huxley has also rotated his scrum halves with Jack Grant starting ahead of Nick Duffy this weekend and Harry Nucifora coming off the bench.
Injuries to squad fly halves Sam Lane and Angus Sinclair have also seen a change in the No. 10 jersey with Rohan Soifoloi moving one spot in.
That means that last weekend’s fullback, the versatile Harry Burey, will start at inside centre alongside Waratah Irae Simone.
Simone had his first game in close to three months when he took on the NSW Country Eagles last Monday in Goulburn and showed some nice touches at times.
He will be much better for the run in Goulburn and will take a lead hand in how the recast Rays backline operates.
An injury to Latu Latunipulu means that Stephan van der Walt and Rob Buaserau will fill the No.11 and No. 14 jerseys with Josh Turner playing at fullback.
Turner had a blinder of a game at fullback against the Great Sydney Rams in Round Two and he will relish the extra room and the opportunities afforded from there.
Augustin Slowik, who was part of Northern Suburbs grand final side earlier this year, is in line to make his NRC debut after being named on the bench.
Brisbane City have announced a strong squad to travel to Sydney for the game that includes Test players Andrew Ready, Kane Douglas, Nick Frisby and Quade Cooper.
Karmichael Hunt will also be having his first run since injuring himself in the June Test series for the Wallabies in June.
The Sydney Rays women’s sevens side will play a series of games against NSW Fiji and NSW Samoa before the NRC game against Brisbane City.
The Uni 7s side finished with the silver medal on the Gold Coast last weekend and finished third overall from the four tournament series.
1. David Lolohea
2. James Hilterbrand
3. Wayne Borsak
4. Dave McDuling
5. Angus Ryan
6. James Brown
7. Tom Connor
8. Hugh Sinclair
9. Jack Grant
10. Rohan Saifoloi
11. Stephan van der Walt
12. Harry Burey
13. Irae Simone
14. Rob Buaserau
15. Josh Turner
16. Damien Fitzpatrick
17. Richie Vaihu
18. Alex Westgarth
19. Connor Vest
20. Alex Perez
21. Harry Nucifora
22. Kepu Lokotui
23. Augustin Slowik
IMAGE: CLAY CROSS / SPORTSPICS