The McNulty brothers, Harry and Sean, will play together for the first time as LA Giltinis in a revised team for Saturday’s first game on the road in New Orleans.
Head coach Darren Coleman has made six changes through injuries, selection tweaks and fresh availability for the tough test against the Toronto Arrows from 10:30am PT.
Harry, who missed the team’s pre-season camp in Maui, gets his first taste of the action as a mobile flanker after a delayed start at the club while his US visa was processed.
He has a high-quality background with Ireland’s rugby sevens team and the chance to play with hooker brother Sean has been a big part of joining the Giltinis.
“To play with my brother will be like a little dream come true. It was one of the main reasons to make the move to the Giltinis because I didn’t want regrets about not doing it in 20 years,” Harry (below left), 28, said.
Sean, 25, said their age difference and divergent international paths (he qualifies for the USA on the 10-year residency rule) meant a distant club match for University College Dublin was the last of their rare games together.
“It’s once-in-a-lifetime at the same professional club so this chance to play together has been a huge factor,” said Sean, who will come off the bench.
Prop JP Smith (knee) and centre Billy Meakes (fractured cheekbone) are out of the starting side through injury while bench duo Marco Fepulea’i (knee) and Luke Carty (hamstring) have also been grounded. Flanker Christian Poidevin and reserve hooker Lindsey Stevens also drop out of the match-day 23.
The starting line-up will be boosted by the return of classy Canadian winger DTH van der Merwe, a two-try force in the opening win over the New England Free Jacks before a shoulder-neck niggle forced him to miss one match.
Burly prop Blake Rogers, lock Corey Thomas and inside centre Luke Burton have moved into the starting side after their minutes off the bench in the last-start 57-26 thrashing of the Seattle Seawolves.
Burton is of a different mould to the direct-running Meakes and will offer a shrewd second playmaker beside experienced flyhalf Matt Giteau.
“We’ve struck our first bit of adversity and challenge with these injuries but I’m excited to see what sort of fabric we show as a team,” Coleman said.
“There’s a test to the mental side of our game with our first road trip, a different stadium, a humid middle of the day kick-off and a tough opponent.
“Harry has looked good in training. He has a massive motor to keep going in games, he links and runs and he’s real competitor. His physicality in 15s will be something we look at and what he offers that might be a little different to Poido.
“I’ve always had a strong thing about having brothers in a team because of the connection and unity it brings.”
Coleman had praise for versatile Luke White, a standout at lock against the Seawolves but being used as a back-up prop this weekend to cover for injuries.
Backrowers Pago Haini and Langilangi Haupeakui will offer physical hitting power off the bench for the second half.
The Arrows struck form last weekend with a 40-19 win over Old Glory DC.
There is a large contingent of the Canadian Test team in Arrows’ jerseys including centre Ben LeSage and 35-Test backrower Lucas Rumball.
On top of that there is the threat posed by Toronto’s quality Argentinians, notably 56-Test fullback Joaquin Tuculet, an elusive mover who has scored 18 Test tries.
“We are playing a quality side with a lot of Test experience so we know what to expect,” Coleman said.
LA GILTINIS (V TORONTO ARROWS)
1 Blake Rogers, 2 Mahe Vailanu, 3 Charlie Abel, 4 Dave Dennis (captain), 5 Corey Thomas, 6 Angus Cottrell, 7 Harry McNulty, 8 Adam Ashe, 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 Sean McNulty, 17 Frikkie de Beer, 18 Luke White, 19 Nathan Den Hoedt, 20 Pago Haini, 21 Cristian Rodriguez, 22 Ryan James, 23 Langilangi Haupeakui
IN: DTH van der Merwe, Harry McNulty, Sean McNulty, Frikkie de Beer, Nathan Den Hoedt, Pago Haini
OUT: JP Smith, Billy Meakes, Christian Poidevin, Lindsey Stevens, Marco Fepulea’i, Luke Carty
The match will be broadcast live at 10:30am PT on Bally Sports SoCal in Los Angeles and can also be viewed live on The Rugby Network internationally.