The Macquarie Uni Sydney Rays have bracketed Dave McDuling with Conor Vest in their second row for the big clash against the Canberra Vikings at Viking Park on Sunday.
The well-travelled and experienced McDuling has been one of the Rays real toilers in the 2017 NRC season so far but he picked a leg infection in the wake of the game against Brisbane City at Pittwater Rugby Park last weekend.
McDuling will be given time to prove his fitness after sitting out Tuesday night’s session at Macquarie Uni. He jumped on to the infection as soon as it flared and hopes are high that he will be available.
Vest has worked off the bench in recent weeks but will take on the Vikings whether McDuling proves his fitness or not.
He will play blindside breakaway if McDuling comes through with James Brown moving to No.8 because of an injury to Hugh Sinclair.
Alex Perez, who had a storming season with Southern Districts in the Shute Shield, will start at blindside breakaway if McDuling is forced out and Vest is marshalled in at lock.
Skipper Damien Fitzpatrick returns to the starting side this week with James Hilterbrand playing a major role off the bench, while Gary Bautz from Northern Suburbs will start at openside breakaway.
The well-performed Tom Connor, close to the Rays best for much of the past month, has sevens commitments and cannot make the trip to Canberra on Saturday for the Sunday game.
Harry Nucifora, who came off the bench last weekend against Brisbane City, will start in the No. 9 jersey, Jack Grant moving back to the bench.
Irae Simone, who copped a knock on his shoulder last weekend at Rat Park, proved his fitness and will team once again with Harry Burey who was the players’ player against Brisbane City.
Tristan Goodbody, the Randwick prop, is another to be brought into the group this week and is in line for his NRC and Rays debut if he gets on the field against the Vikings.
The National Rugby Championship (NRC) will be raising awareness and much-needed funds for Leukemia Foundation during this weekend’s seventh round with the games to be played with a blue rugby ball.
Fans are being encouraged to donate with either a Leukemia Foundation member or a donation box with banners set up at each of the home games.
1. David Lolohea
2. Damien Fitzpatrick
3. Wayne Borsak
4. Dave McDuling / Connor Vest
5. Angus Ryan
6. Connor Vest / Alex Perez
7. Gary Bautz
8. James Brown
9. Harry Nucifora
10. Rohan Saifoloi
11. Augustin Slowik
12. Harry Burey
13. Irae Simone
14. Rob Buaserau
15. Josh Turner
16. James Hilterbrand / Sam Kitchen
17. Tristan Goodbody
18. Alex Westgarth
19. Kawaa Leauma
20. Alex Perez / James Hilterbrand
21. Jack Grant
22. Kepu Lokotui
23. Apo Latunipulu
IMAGE KAREN WATSON