The LA Giltinis have entrusted Irish-born Luke Carty with the flyhalf jersey for Saturday’s visit to Houston in a move with major ramifications for USA rugby.
The skilful No.10 has earned the faith of head coach Darren Coleman, who will use former Wallabies star Matt Giteau off the bench.
Carty has impressed in two cameos off the bench so the move is a natural progression for this clash against the Houston SaberCats at AVEVA Stadium from 5pm (PT).
“Luke has been very good in his short bursts off the bench and he’s definitely a player of Major League Rugby starting standard,” Coleman said.
“There’s some rotation to this because ‘Gits’ has started in our three games and the trial plus it’s also a different way to look at things.”
Carty’s game management and kicking skills, both out of hand and for goal off the tee, are two of his biggest attributes.
It’s a package of real potential for USA Eagles selectors to keep monitoring because Carty is US-qualified through a grandmother born in New York.
Coleman has made five changes to the (3-0) Giltinis, including three forced because of injuries, for this match against the (2-2) SaberCats.
Flanker Harry McNulty (broken hand) was a casualty during the 43-16 win over the Toronto Arrows last weekend while versatile weapon Luke White (hamstring) and Langilangi Haupeakui (knee) are also out.
Christian Poidevin is the new flanker but keeping up the club’s prop stocks has been harder.
With the injuries to White, JP Smith (knee), Marco Fepulea’i (knee) and Sione Tuihalamaka (tricep), the Giltinis have created an exciting chance for new Tongan-born front-row signing Ma’ake Muti.
The 265lb (120kg) Muti, 23, has been rushed onto the bench after only last week arriving in Los Angeles for a try-out from the Colorado XO team which develops players from football, basketball and track backgrounds for rugby.
“I went to a mate’s house in Glendale for a few beers and watched the Giltinis play their first game on TV (on March 20). Now, here I am...that’s what can happen,” Muti said.
Coleman has also rotated high-performer Adam Ashe to the bench and rewarded impressive bench forward Pago Haini with his first start of the season at No.8.
“Adam has played some big minutes while Pago has been dynamic off the bench for us,” Coleman said.
“It’s a baptism of fire for Ma’ake with all he’s had to learn about a new team in a week but he’s tough, athletic and wants it.”
Ryan James comes in on the wing for John Ryberg while another exciting young Californian Watson Filikitonga gets his first taste as centre-winger cover on the bench.
Coleman’s scouting of the SaberCats comes with the warning that Saturday’s opponents have a damaging scrum which has earned more scrum penalties than any other in MLR.
“We expect to be tested but the really pleasing step-up in our last game was in our goal-line defence and maul defence against Toronto,” Coleman said.
Coleman also expects SaberCats halfback Nick Boyer to be a handful as a runner after the Giltinis made the tough call to trade him.
“It was a salary cap call more than anything. We know how good a player Nick is and he knows our plays and systems as well.”
LA GILTINIS (V HOUSTON SABERCATS)
1 Blake Rogers, 2 Mahe Vailanu, 3 Charlie Abel, 4 Dave Dennis (captain), 5 Nathan Den Hoedt, 6 Angus Cottrell, 7 Christian Poidevin, 8 Pago Haini, 9 Harrison Goddard, 10 Luke Carty, 11 DTH van der Merwe, 12 Luke Burton, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 14 Ryan James, 15 Glenn Bryce
Replacements: 16 Lindsey Stevens, 17 Frikkie de Beer, 18 Ma’ake Muti, 19 Corey Thomas, 20 Adam Ashe, 21 Cristian Rodriguez, 22 Matt Giteau, 23 Watson Filikitonga
IN: Christian Poidevin, Luke Carty, Lindsey Stevens, Ma’ake Muti, Watson Filikitonga
OUT: Harry McNulty, John Ryberg, Sean McNulty, Luke White, Langilangi Haupeakui