Laulala signs short term extension
The Blues front row club has been further enhanced with forty-one Test All Black prop, Nepo Laulala, re-signing with the club on a one-year contract.
Laulala is one game away from 100 Super Rugby caps, with 26 for the Blues along with 73 games for the Crusaders and Chiefs.
The tighthead prop returned to Auckland in 2021 to join the Blues where he will continue his association with fellow All Blacks Ofa Tuungafasi, Alex Hodgman and Māori All Black Marcel Renata.
Laulala made his All Black debut in 2015, although had a lengthy time out of the game with injury rehabilitation, coming back in 2017.
The Samoan-born player came through Wesley College, with older brother Casey – also an All Black – and brothers Ray and Luteru both representing Counties Manukau.
Blues coach, Leon MacDonald, said Laulala’s experience is great to have around the team.
“Nepo’s been an important part of our squad since he returned home with his family last year and he’s an invaluable part of our tight-five group,” said MacDonald.
“He’s a quiet family man with strong values but is also a strong contributor to our team discussions – we are pleased to have him back with us for 2023.”
New Zealand Rugby General Manager Professional Rugby and Performance, Chris Lendrum, said Laulala continues to be an excellent servant of New Zealand Rugby.
“Nepo’s built up a wealth of experience in a key position, including 42 Tests for the All Blacks while also performing at Provincial and Super Rugby level for the past decade. He’s played a key role for the Blues over the past two seasons and I’m sure will continue to do so in 2023.”
Reds announce side to take on Rebels in Melbourne
Hunter Paisami and Jordan Petaia will return to the Queensland Reds starting side for this Saturday’s Harvey Norman Super Rugby Pacific Round 5 clash against the Melbourne Rebels at AAMI Park.
Paisami and Petaia are two of three changes to the Reds XV, with Kalani Thomas set to run-on at scrumhalf for the sixth time in his career.
Harry Wilson will celebrate his 50th Queensland cap, while prop Phransis Sula-Siaosi will potentially play his first Super Rugby match after debuting for Queensland on last year’s Tour of Japan.
Head coach Brad Thorn said: “The Rebels have been impressive so far this season. We’re expecting a tough contest down in Melbourne.
“It’s great to have Hunter, Jordy and Isaac back this week. They’ll bring good experience to the backline.
“Congratulations to Harry who’ll play his 50th game for Queensland. It’s a special and well-deserved achievement.
“Phransis impressed us during the Challenger Series and Japan Tour last year. It’s a great reward to see him potentially make his Super Rugby debut.”
Queensland have named an unchanged starting forward pack for the fourth straight week, with Dane Zander, Matt Faessler and Zane Nonggorr set to pack down in the front row.
Seru Uru and Ryan Smith reprise their combination in the second row, with co-captain Liam Wright, Fraser McReight and Wilson making for a settled and dynamic backrow trio.
Thomas’ inclusion in the starting side sees skipper Tate McDermott drop to the bench, a planned rest week for the Wallaby scrumhalf.
James O’Connor will feature at flyhalf, with Petaia returning on the wing alongside Filipo Daugunu and fullback Jock Campbell.
Fresh from his second try-scoring double of 2023, Josh Flook partners Paisami in the centres, the latter having recovered from concussion.
Off the bench, Connor Anderson returns to the side in place of Connor Vest, while Isaac Henry will also make his comeback from a hand injury suffered in Round 1.
After impressing in his starting debut last week, Taj Annan will provide strike as a finisher with Tom Lynagh ruled out with concussion after last round’s narrow win over the Drua.
After impressing in 2022’s inaugural Queensland Challenger Series and Tour of Japan, Souths prop and Nudgee product Sula-Siaosi will potentially make his Super Rugby debut with Sef Fa’agase suspended.
Melbourne Rebels v Queensland Reds, Saturday 25 March, AAMI Park, Melbourne, 6:35pm AEST. Watch live via Nine Gem and Stan Sport.
- Dane Zander – University of Queensland – St Joseph’s Nudgee College – Albany Creek Brumbies
- Matt Faessler – Brothers – Toowoomba Grammar School – USQ Saints
- Zane Nonggorr – Bond University – The Southport School – Gold Coast Eagles
- Ryan Smith – Brothers – St Patrick’s College Shorncliffe – Caboolture Snakes
- Seru Uru – Wests – Ratu Kadavulevu School, Fiji – Namoli Rugby Club, Fiji
- Liam Wright (cc) – Easts – Anglican Church Grammar School – Easts
- Fraser McReight – Brothers – Brisbane Grammar School – Albany Creek Brumbies
- Harry Wilson* – Brothers – St Joseph’s College Gregory Terrace – Gunnedah Red Devils
- Kalani Thomas – University of Queensland – Ipswich Grammar School – Souths
- James O’Connor – Brothers – St Joseph’s Nudgee College – Brothers
- Filipo Daugunu – Wests – Dogotuki District School, Fjii
- Hunter Paisami – Wests – Mangere College, Auckland
- Josh Flook – Brothers – St Joseph’s Nudgee College – Brothers
- Jordan Petaia – Wests – Brisbane State High School
- Jock Campbell – University of Queensland – The Southport School – Inverell Highlanders
- Richie Asiata – Easts – Anglican Church Grammar School
- Peni Ravai – Easts – Ratu Kadavulevu School, Fiji
- Phransis Sula-Siaosi** – Souths – St Joseph’s Nudgee College**
- Jake Upfield – Bond University – The Southport School
- Connor Anderson – Wests – Brisbane State High School – Everton Park Roosters
- Tate McDermott – University of Queensland – Sunshine Coast Grammar School – Flinders Rugby Club
- Isaac Henry – Wests – Brisbane Boys College – Kenmore Bears
- Taj Annan – Souths – Brisbane Boys College – Merewether Carlton
*denotes 50th Queensland cap
**denotes Super Rugby Pacific debut
Rebels name Match Day 23 for Saturday night clash against the Reds
Melbourne Rebels Head Coach Kevin Foote has named his side for the Rebels’ Round 5 primetime Australian blockbuster against the Queensland Reds on Saturday night, with emerging stars Glen Vaihu and Daniel Maiava, returning to the field.
Maiava and Vaihu are back in action for the first time this year after impressive 2022 campaigns.
An lower leg injury to Richard Hardwick has provided the exciting Vaiolini Ekuasi with his first starting opportunity in the back row, while David Feliuai will look to continue his impressive start to his Super Rugby career, named at 12, with Stacey Ili shifting 13, replacing the injured Reece Hodge.
Ili has been one of the competition’s strongest centres this season, registering the fourth highest carries (43) and eighth highest metres run (372) in the league.
Meanwhile, Joe Pincus has been named for his second start of the 2023 Harvey Norman Super Rugby Pacific season, after overcoming a niggling quad injury.
Saturday will be a memorable day for the Melbourne Rebels in more ways than one, with the Club hosting its first double header of 2023, as the Rebels Super W team kicks-off its season.
The Round 5 clash will also present the first match Alex Mafi has faced against his former side.
Mafi said he’s excited for the challenge.
“The game means a lot to us in terms of our season, and we’re just really focused on getting the win and playing exciting rugby in front of our fans, who have been great this season, “said Mafi.
These games between the Rebels and Reds are always good games traditionally, and have normally gone down to the wire, and have been great spectacles to watch in terms of free flowing, exciting rugby.
“We’ll be looking to continue that, and we’ve been able to showcase that ability to score and swing the ball and have some fun, playing footy that’s inspiring.”
Melbourne Rebels Match Day 23 vs Reds
1 Matt Gibbon
2 Alex Mafi
3 Sam Talakai
4 Trevor Hosea
5 Tuaina Taii Tualima
6 Josh Kemeny
7 Brad Wilkin
8 Vaiolini Ekuasi
9 Ryan Louwrens
10 Carter Gordon
11 Monty Ioane
12 David Feliuai
13 Stacey Ili
14 Lachie Anderson
15 Joe Pincus
16 Anaru Rangi
17 Cabous Eloff
18 Pone Fa’amausili
19 Angelo Smith
20 Daniel Maiava
21 James Tuttle
22 Glen Vaihu
23 Nick Jooste
Team Naming | March 24 v Brumbies
After a big win against the Blues at Eden Park in Round 4 last weekend, the team are riding high and ready to take on the currently unbeaten Brumbies.
Dallas McLeod gets the nod in the midfield after a Man-of-the-Match performance in Auckland. Nine carries, nine defenders beaten and 18 tackles, and some quick footwork to set up scoring opportunities – McLeod is in great form as we climb into the season proper.
“Dallas’ performance was something he was proud of, as were we,” said Crusaders Head Coach Scott Robertson, fresh off his announcement as All Blacks Head Coach from 2024.
“He took his opportunities and we’re pleased for him.”
Pepesana Patafilo, who debuted in the red and black last week comes into the starting XV in the 14 jersey. The winger was surprised by his selection against the Blues – probably time to get used to the feeling of donning the jersey he moved south from Wellington to play in.
“We saw Peps energy off the bench and now he’s got the opportunity to light it up from the start,” Robertson.
Meanwhile, Zach Gallagher returns to the starting XV in his first start of the 2023 season.
First five Richie Mo’unga will bring up his 99th cap for the Crusaders this week, set to make his 100th appearance at home against Moana Pasifika on Good Friday (7 April).
With 49 tackles between them last week, the loosehead trio of Ethan Blackadder, Tom Christie and Sione Talitui returns against the Brumbies, bringing strength and experience to side.
Robertson said the Brumbies were “a strong side and we’re expecting a big contest”.
“It’s great to be playing back at home. We’ve had some historic matches against the Brumbies and our fierce rivalry brings out the best from both of us and we expect it again this Friday.
“The Brumbies are in great nick so far this season, a strong side, and we’re focused on our performance based on efforts.”
Get your tickets here for Friday night! Kick-off 7:05pm.
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