The LA Giltinis have recalled Luke White (below) at lock to rev up their physical intensity for Saturday’s tough clash of conference leaders in Georgia.
White’s return to the pack to face 6-3 Rugby ATL in Marietta will be his first starting role since his standout performance against the Seattle Seawolves in Round Two in March.
The competitive forward made his comeback from a niggling hamstring injury with 17 minutes off the bench at prop in last week’s 17-3 win over the Austin Gilgronis.
“It’s good to have Luke fully fit again. The only other time he’s started at lock this season he was man-of-the-match so that’s his capability,” Giltinis head coach Darren Coleman said.
“He blew out the cobwebs with those minutes against Austin and he has the attitude we all need to take on Atlanta’s big, physical game.”
White comes in for Nathan Den Hoedt, out of action with a knee strain. Sean McNulty rotates into starting hooker while the only other team changes are on the bench.
Significantly, both Pago Haini and Langilangi Haupeakui (below) have been included on a bench of six forwards and just two backs as another sign of how important it will be to sustain a commanding physical presence across the full 80 minutes.
The clash at 5pm (PT) pits the Giltinis, as 8-1 leaders of the Western Conference, against the frontrunners in the Eastern Conference.
There was the same billing when the Giltinis headed east in early May and copped their only defeat against Rugby United New York, the then-leaders of the east.
“We are wary that this smells like the New York game with us travelling to play the Eastern Conference leader on artificial turf,” Coleman said.
“We are after some redemption and doing this whole trip far better so we can head into our bye week on a high.
“Rugby ATL are very good defensively and with their kicking game plus you know the contest from the big South African influence in their forwards.”
Argentinian inside centre Bautista Ezcurra is a key cog for Rugby ATL in this match at Lupo Field, 30 minutes from downtown Atlanta.
He scored two tries, made as many line breaks, gathered 79m on 11 runs and kicked for 221m in Rugby ATL’s 25-6 win over Seattle last weekend.
For the Giltinis, John Ryberg (below), Ryan James and Luke Carty will all enter this match with extra confidence after being selected this week in USA Rugby’s 41-man training squad for the two July Tests.
The Giltinis lead Major League Rugby on attack with 49 tries but they will have to earn the right to play their fast brand of rugby against a Rugby ATL side that leads the league in turnovers with the way they contest at the breakdown and tackle.
LA GILTINIS (v Rugby ATL)
1 JP Smith, 2 Sean McNulty, 3 Charlie Abel, 4 Dave Dennis (c), 5 Luke White, 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 Lindsay Stevens, 17 Blake Rogers, 18 Frikkie de Beer, 19 Corey Thomas, 20 Pago Haini, 21 Langilangi Haupeakui, 22 Luke Carty, 23 Ryan James
IN: Blake Rogers, Pago Haini, Langilangi Haupeakui
OUT: Harry McNulty, Nathan Den Hoedt, Cristian Rodriguez
The Giltinis play Rugby ATL in Marietta, Georgia on Saturday from 5pm (PT). The match will be broadcast live on Bally Sports SoCal in Los Angeles and can also be viewed live on The Rugby Network internationally.