Late change as Giltinis Assistant Coach Orene Ai'i fills in for injured Luke Burton who fell during warm up.
John Ryberg is also out with Cristian Rodriguez comes into the starting line up, and 24th man Cyrille Cama comes onto the bench.
****Press Release as of Friday****
Backrower Zach Bonte and sharp-stepping utility back Kahanu Koi have been selected on the bench for the 2-1 Giltinis’ toughest game of the season so far.
The Gilgronis have averaged 37 points per game through their strong 4-0 start to the Major League Rugby season.
Giltinis head coach Steve Hoiles is upbeat that he has the right firepower for a match-up that has quickly turned into an intense rivalry.
“We played Austin three times last season, if you include a trial game. We came out on top in all three but they were all very competitive,” Hoiles warned.
“They are undefeated this year, high on confidence and we respect them. If I’m going to be honest, there is some feeling to this game just below the surface.”
Canadian Test centre Ben LeSage played most of last weekend’s 19-15 win over the New England Free Jacks with a broken hand.
He has been forced out of this game at Bold Stadium in Austin as has experienced bench backrower Adam Ashe (head gash).
Koi, just 18, comes onto the bench as wing cover after impressing as the youngest member of the Giltinis’ Senior Academy. He is a proficient sevens player with all the natural flair of his Fijian and Samoan heritage. He has already been invited to train with the wider USA Sevens squad.
He built his skills through the highly-regarded Rhinos Rugby Academy in Sacramento which was his springboard to the USA Pathways Academy program late last year.
Bonte is from Orange County and attended UCLA. He is also in the club’s Academy and has had recent game time with the Belmont Shore Rugby Club
“I love Kahanu’s energy and desire. Zach has also trained with us and shown a range of skills for a young backrower,” Hoiles said.
“The Giltinis put a lot of time and effort into the Academy and one of the benefits is having greater depth than last year.”
Up front, Luke White has been promoted to start at prop. Kiwi Marco Fepulea’i returns after a week off for a back niggle. Canadian Test prop Djustice Sears-Duru has been rested this week.
Flanker Christian Poidevin gets his chance in the starting backrow. USA Eagle Hanco Germishuys has been rotated to the bench and will be an impact weapon later in the game.
With LeSage out, the experienced Australian Will Chambers shifts in one spot from the wing to his more traditional slot at outside centre where his direct running will be an asset.
This creates an opportunity for flying USA Eagle Ryan James to start on the wing.
LA Giltinis (v Austin Gilgronis)
***(LATE CHANGE as of 4:45pm LA time)***
1 Luke White, 2 Andrew Tuala, 3 Marco Fepulea’i,4 Dave Dennis (capt), 5 Nathan Den Hoedt, 6 Angus Cottrell, 7 Christian Poidevin, 8 Corey Thomas, 9 Harrison Goddard, 10, Orene Aii, 11 Ryan James, 12 Billy Meakes, 13 Will Chambers, 14 Cristian Rodriguez, 15 Jordan Trainor
Replacements: 16 Sean McNulty,17 Charlie Abel, 18 Les Leuluaialii-Makin, 19 Zach Bonte, 20 Hanco Germishuys, 21 Tas Smith, 22 Kahanu Koi, 23 Cyrille Cama
IN: Marco Fepulea’i, Zach Bonte, Kahanu Koi, Orene A'ii*, Cyrille Cama*
OUT: Djustice Sears-Duru, Ben LeSage, Adam Ashe, Luke Burton*, John Ryberg*
*Changes due to injury pre-game
The Giltinis face the Austin Gilgronis at Bold Stadium in Texas on Saturday. The match will be broadcast live at 5pm PST on Bally Sports SoCal and Bally Sports West in Los Angeles. The match can also be viewed live on The Rugby Network internationally.