Team: Mitchell Given Shot To Cement Wing Spot

5 months ago

Former England Sevens ace Tom Mitchell (above) will tackle his third position at the LA Giltinis when he starts on the wing in Saturday’s full-on clash against Rugby ATL.

Head coach Stephen Hoiles is eager to settle on a position for the nimble mover who is finally match fit to play a full 80 minutes.

Hoiles has previously selected Mitchell at fullback and flyhalf in his three cameos since returning from a long-term hamstring injury.

“We want to give Tom more time in this game and find out his best position. He’s got exciting skills so we want him involved on the field,” Hoiles said.

Mitchell is one of four changes to the starting line-up for Saturday which will be an intense rematch between the two clubs that fought out the 2021 Major League Rugby final.

Mitchell fills the wing spot vacated by Ryan James, who is in camp with the USA Sevens squad.

Tall Canadian international Corey Thomas (below) wins a start at blindside flanker in a swap with Nathan Den Hoedt who will add impact from the bench.

Prop Marco Fepulea’i starts at prop on Saturday with Charlie Abel now in the finisher role.

The biggest call has been forced at flyhalf. Veteran Orene Ai’i is under suspension for three weeks. He will miss three matches after being cited for striking during the recent clash against the Houston SaberCats.

The 42-year-old Ai’i has been at the helm for the Giltinis’ five-match winning streak. Experienced utility Luke Burton has been listed as his replacement.

Hoiles has warned his team to be ready for a game that will challenge them on all fronts.

“This match is our best test of the year so far and it’s on their patch. Rugby ATL have improved. They have a very good defence, they are playing with more variety and width plus they win more scrum penalties than any other side,” Hoiles said.

“They won’t have forgotten losing the MLR final to us or that they beat us in Atlanta last year.”

Hoiles said the GIltinis’ streak of wins had been of great benefit.

“It wasn’t just winning but how we won. I think it has given the guys an understanding that we play differently as a team to the 2021 side,” Hoiles said.

“We’ve been tougher in fighting out of some situations on the field.”

Australian winger-centre Will Chambers returns on the bench after beating a knee strain.

LA GILTINIS (v Rugby ATL)

1 Andrew Tuala, 2 Joe Taufete’e, 3 Marco Fepulea’i, 4 Luke White, 5 Dave Dennis (capt), 6 Corey Thomas, 7 Christian Poidevin, 8 Hanco Germishuys, 9 Harrison Goddard, 10 Luke Burton, 11 Tom Mitchell, 12 Billy Meakes, 13 Ben LeSage, 14 John Ryberg, 15 Jordan Trainor

Replacements: 16 Lindsey Stevens, 17 Les Leuluaialii-Makin, 18 Charlie Abel, 19 Nathan Den Hoedt, 20 Cyrille Cama, 21 Tas Smith, 22 Cristian Rodriguez, 23 Will Chambers

IN: Les Leuluaialii-Makin, Cristian Rodriguez, Will Chambers

OUT: Orene Ai’i, Ryan James, Djustice Sears-Duru

The Giltinis face Rugby ATL at Silverbacks Park, outside Atlanta, at noon (PST) on Saturday. The match will be broadcast live on Bally Sports SoCal and Bally Sports West in Los Angeles. The match can also be viewed live on The Rugby Network internationally.

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