Top playmaker Matt Giteau has been reinstalled at flyhalf for the LA Giltinis’ challenging match-up against Old Glory DC at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on Saturday.
A week off to repair a strained knee ligament has the former Wallabies star fit to steer the unbeaten pacesetters of Major League Rugby in the 6pm (PT) leg of the SoCal Classic double-header.
Giteau (above) takes over the No.10 jersey from Luke Carty, who stepped up impressively by having a role in five of the seven tries that buried the San Diego Legion 45-17 last weekend.
Head coach Darren Coleman has elected to continue his rotation policy to shrewdly spread playing time across the squad and freshen key weapons from the club’s hot 5-0 start.
Abrasive try-scoring flanker Angus Cottrell will play off the bench for the first time with versatile Corey Thomas picked as the new starting No.6. It’s the only change to the starting line-up which faced the Legion.
Influential Scottish fullback Glenn Bryce has played every minute of the opening five games. There were plans to shuffle him to the bench but a hamstring injury to Fijian Seru Vularika at Thursday training scuttled ideas of tinkering with the backline formation.
“We showed good resilience getting the job done against San Diego without ‘Gits.’ The chance to rest his knee has been beneficial,” Coleman said.
“Those 27 minutes that Seru played for us last weekend was the most rugby he’s played in a year. It’s disappointing he can’t continue his progress for now because he’d been growing more and more accustomed to our patterns and the players around him at training.”
Coleman is wary of Old Glory DC, a club with a 2-2-1 record but one he regards as “a strong play-off chance.”
“Their results are deceiving. I see the best organised and coached team we’ve faced,” Coleman warned.
“Old Glory have a clever Kiwi pair at scrumhalf and flyhalf (Danny Tusitala and Jason Robertson) under a Kiwi coach (Andrew Douglas). Both players have Mitre 10 Cup experience back in New Zealand so they are high-quality players to guide the team around the field.”
The SoCal Classic double-header will open at 2:30pm with the Legion taking on the New England Free Jacks in the first of the West v East clashes.
“We are all about promoting rugby so the double-header is another great way for fans to get involved,” Coleman said.
Old Glory DC coach Douglas outlined his club’s mindset after the upbeat 35-22 win over the Free Jacks last weekend.
“We’re going to LA now full of confidence,” Douglas said. “LA are supposed to beat us and no one is going to pick us to win.
“No one is going to give us a shot apart from ourselves. We have got nothing to lose, we can enjoy ourselves. I’m looking forward to it.”
LA GILTINIS (v Old Glory DC)
1 JP Smith, 2 Mahe Vailanu, 3 Charlie Abel, 4 Dave Dennis (c), 5 Nathan Den Hoedt, 6 Corey Thomas, 7 Christian Poidevin, 8 Langilangi Haupeakui, 9 Harrison Goddard, 10 Matt Giteau, 11 DTH van der Merwe, 12 Luke Burton, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 14 John Ryberg, 15 Glenn Bryce
Replacements: 16 Lindsey Stevens, 17 Blake Rogers, 18 Frikkie de Beer, 19 Angus Cottrell, 20 Adam Ashe, 21 Cristian Rodriguez, 22 Ryan James, 23 Luke Carty
IN: Matt Giteau, Lindsey Stevens
OUT: Seru Vularika, Sean McNulty
* Tickets are on sale for Saturday’s SoCal Classic double-header at the Coliseum…two MLR games for the price of one. The San Diego Legion will meet the New England Free Jacks at 2:30pm before your Giltinis tackle Old Glory DC at 6pm (PT). For tickets, head to www.giltinis.com/tickets
The Giltinis’ match will be broadcast live on Bally Sports SoCal in Los Angeles and both games can also be viewed live on The Rugby Network internationally.