The return of high-impact centre Adam Ashley-Cooper (above) has reshaped the LA Giltinis’ backline to top strength for Sunday’s clash against the San Diego Legion.
The Wallabies’ legend is back refreshed for the 5pm kick-off (PT) in San Diego after two weeks off to repair a tweaked knee ligament.
Ashley-Cooper sets the tone in the outside backs with his strong defence, excellent communication, ball-carries and big-moment knack.
His return means utility Luke Burton going to the bench and Billy Meakes shuffling in one position to his specialist spot at inside centre.
Head coach Darren Coleman has made another backline change with the powerful John Ryberg coming in for the injured Ryan James (hamstring). Up front, Nathan Den Hoedt is back as starting lock to continue his rotation with Corey Thomas.
“San Diego will be playing their first home game with a good atmosphere behind them so we know what we are walking into,” Coleman said.
Coleman pinpointed Australian centre Cam Clark and South African winger Bjorn Basson as dangerous scoring threats that had to be contained at Torero Stadium
“We have to step up physically against their big forwards. I say it each week but that’s the truth of Major League Rugby,” Coleman said.
The 1.98m Josh Furno has played 37 Tests for Italy and he joins forces with Australian, South African, Kiwi and American forwards in the Legion pack.
Fullback Glenn Bryce said he felt the Giltinis had “got their mojo back” after scoring eight tries to thrash the Houston SaberCats 52-5 last weekend.
The 9-2 Giltinis have to sustain the rage in this “California Derby” with just five rounds left until the play-offs.
LA GILTINIS (v San Diego Legion)
1 JP Smith, 2 Sean McNulty, 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 Glenn Bryce
Replacements: 16 Gelen Robinson, 17 Blake Rogers, 18 Ma’ake Muti, 19 Corey Thomas, 20 Pago Haini, 21 Cristian Rodriguez, 22 Luke Carty, 23 Luke Burton
IN: Adam Ashley-Cooper, Cristian Rodriguez
OUT: Ryan James, Seru Vularika
The Giltinis play San Diego Legion in San Diego on Sunday from 3pm (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.