Reinstated lock Luke White (pictured above) is determined to repay the LA Giltinis for his costly mistake with a high-voltage performance on Saturday at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
White returns to face the Austin Gilgronis from 5.30pm (PT) after four frustrating weeks on the sidelines through suspension for a dangerous cleanout.
“Luke’s got a lot of pent-up energy so we want to see that come through as physicality and enthusiasm against the Gilgronis,” head coach Darren Coleman said.
On top of an early-season hamstring injury, White has played just three times in Major League Rugby this season.
“I have felt a bit helpless because it’s no fun being in the grandstand when you’re fit. I’m determined to right the wrongs and do all I can to get that winning feeling back for the team,” the MLR veteran said.
White has been selected in his preferred position at lock while Nathan Den Hoedt has been shuffled to blindside flanker to replace the suspended Angus Cottrell.
Cottrell is out for three games after being cited by NOLA Gold and copping a suspension for contact with the head in a counter-rucking situation during last weekend’s game.
Coleman has recalled high-impact hooker Mahe Vailanu to the starting front-row after he proved his recovery from injury with 22 minutes off the bench against NOLA.
The Giltinis will field their most formidable lineout force of the season with Irishman Sean O’Brien (below) earning his first start at openside flanker.
The backline is closer to its regular formation with Harrison Goddard back at scrumhalf and strike weapon DTH van Der Merwe on the wing.
Van der Merwe, the former Canadian international, returns after missing three games with a grumbling knee since scoring his 10th try of the season against the Houston SaberCats last month.
It also means Billy Meakes and Adam Ashley-Cooper reuniting in their regular centre spots on Saturday.
Luke Burton has won the fullback berth over Glenn Bryce now he is fit again after a game off to rest following a head knock.
The 11-3 Giltinis can wrap up home stadium advantage for the play-offs with a five-point result against the 9-5 Gilgronis but a win in any shape is the No.1 priority against the side they beat 17-3 in May.
“I’m expecting a fired-up performance from the Austin guys. They have great pride in their work ethic and defence plus they have added to their attack in recent games,” Coleman said.
“That being said I’d like to think we’ll match them in all those energy areas to bounce back after a disappointing loss.”
The Gilgronis arrive on a four-game winning streak.
LA GILTINIS (v Austin Gilgronis)
1 JP Smith, 2 Mahe Vailanu, 3 Marco Fepulea’i, 4 Dave Dennis (c), 5 Luke White, 6 Nathan Den Hoedt, 7 Sean O’Brien, 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 Sean McNulty, 17 Sione Tuihalamaka, 18 Charlie Abel, 19 Pago Haini, 20 Ben Weischedel, 21 Cristian Rodriguez, 22 Seru Vularika, 23 Adam Channel
IN: DTH van der Merwe, Luke White, Luke Burton, Sione Tuihalamaka, Charlie Abel
OUT: Angus Cottrell, Blake Rogers, Ma’ake Muti, Glenn Bryce, Jonetani Vasurakuta
The Giltinis play Austin Gilgronis at the Coliseum on Saturday from 5.30pm (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.