Head coach Darren Coleman has warned the LA Giltinis to expect an ambush when they face the highly-rated Austin Gilgronis in Texas on Wednesday.
Coleman has prepared his team for a full-on contest against the No.2 team in Major League Rugby in what shapes as a tense rivalry match on multiple levels from 5pm (PT) .
“Of course, there’s a rivalry…no one wants to be the little ‘Gil’ brother at the end of this 80 minutes,” Coleman said.
“We are playing against a team with the best defence in the league, three All Blacks and a bunch of former Super Rugby players and American Eagles.
“This is a huge challenge for us in their stadium in Austin.
“We’re bouncing from hard game to hard game and that’s a credit to the standard of MLR.”
AG Rugby, running at 5-3, are advertising the clash as “the BIG ONE…California v Texas…a rivalry is born” so there’s no doubt what the Giltinis are heading into. The crowd at Bold Stadium will be fuelled by $2 beer night as well.
The pacesetting 7-1 Giltinis have made five changes to the line-up which bounced back to top form with a 38-27 win over the Utah Warriors on rugby’s historic visit to SoFi Stadium last weekend.
The loss of Mahe Vailanu (below), one of MLR’s most influential hookers with his physical and skilful package, is the only change forced by injury.
Scans this week revealed thumb ligament damage that will require surgery and a lengthy spell on the sidelines before a return in time for any play-off action.
Lindsey Stevens is the new starting hooker while backrowers Christian Poidevin and Adam Ashe return to the pack after missing the Utah game with collarbone issues.
Hardworking Nathan “Moose” Den Hoedt is back in the starting side at lock.
In the backs, try-scoring ace DTH van der Merwe is in on the wing after being rotated to the bench last weekend.
A significant addition on the bench is Luke White (below), back as a reserve prop after a lengthy lay-off with hamstring trouble.
White’s abrasive, direct and strong-running style was high-impact against the Seattle Seawolves in Round Two and perfectly suits the challenge in Texas.
Coleman has an intriguing match-up of his own against AG Rugby head coach Sam Harris, a close friend from their days in Australia.
“I’ve coached Sam and his father was my team manager at the Warringah club in Sydney. It makes the rivalry that bit more when you are coaching against a good mate,” Coleman said.
“We had a much-improved physical performance against the Warriors with our ball-carries and cleanouts and playing Austin will demand the same high standard.”
AG Rugby made a prized signing in April by getting former All Blacks lock Isaac Ross to join the club beside giant prop Jamie Mackintosh and Frank Halai, two more former New Zealand Test players.
AG Rugby flyhalf Mack Mason, hooker Hugh Roach and flanker Maclean Jones all played for the NSW Waratahs in Super Rugby and are past rivals of the Giltinis’ big Aussie contingent. AG Rugby centre Bryce Campbell has been capped 32 times by the Eagles.
LA GILTINIS (v Austin Gilgronis)
1 JP Smith, 2 Lindsey Stevens, 3 Charlie Abel, 4 Dave Dennis (c), 5 Nathan Den Hoedt, 6 Angus Cottrell, 7 Christian Poidevin, 8 Adam Ashe, 9 Harrison Goddard, 10 Matt Giteau, 11 DTH van der Merwe, 12 Billy Meakes, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 14 John Ryberg, 15 Luke Burton
Replacements: 16 Sean McNulty, 17 Luke White, 18 Frikkie de Beer, 19 Corey Thomas, 20 Pago Haini , 21 Cristian Rodriguez, 22 Luke Carty, 23 Ryan James
IN: Christian Poidevin, Adam Ashe, Lindsey Stevens, Luke White, Frikkie de Beer
OUT: Harry McNulty, Mahe Vailanu, Langilangi Haupeakui, Blake Rogers, Ma’ake Muti
The Giltinis’ match will be broadcast live on Wednesday from 5pm (PT) on Bally Sports SoCal in Los Angeles and on The Rugby Network internationally.