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O'Connor named for 100th match as Australian sides unveil opening week line-ups

By AAP
(Photo by Mark Nolan/Getty Images)

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Western Force recruits Reesjan Pasitoa and Bayley Kuenzle will be aiming to take down their former side when they play the Brumbies in Canberra on Sunday.

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Pasitoa spent two seasons at the Brumbies before making the move to the Force for the 2022 Super Rugby Pacific campaign.

The 20-year-old has been thrust straight into the No.10 jersey for the Force’s season opener, and he’ll be joined by former Brumbies utility back Kuenzle, who was named at inside centre.

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Force coach Tim Sampson is excited to see what Pasitoa will produce.

“There’s certain players you’ve just got to let them off the leash, let them be natural footy players, and he’s certainly one of those,” Sampson said.

The Force signed four former Brumbies during the off-season, and Sampson said that could prove to be an advantage heading into Sunday’s game.

“The bonus we have is these guys know how the Brumbies are going to play and what certain individuals do,” he said.

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“Importantly as well is they’re comfortable at the stadium.”

Wallabies lock Izack Rodda will make his Force debut, while Fiji winger Manasa Mataele was also named in the starting side.

The Brumbies, who lost to Queensland 19-16 in last year’s Super Rugby AU grand final, have opted for stability in their season opener.

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Halfback Nic White and flyhalf Noah Lolesio will reignite their partnership, while Allan Alaalatoa will again captain the side.

Alaalatoa will be joined by James Slipper and hooker Folau Fainga’a in a powerful front row.

Irae Simone and Len Ikitau combine in the centres, with Tom Banks at fullback.

NSW Waratahs coach Darren Coleman has named three debutants for Friday night’s clash with Fijian Drua in Sydney, with lock Geoff Cridge and winger Dylan Pietsch handed starts, while Welsh international Jamie Roberts is set to come off the bench.

There is just one change to the starting XV that impressed against the Reds in Roma last weekend, with Dave Porecki joining Angus Bell and Harry Johnson-Holmes in the front-row and Tom Horton moving to the bench.

Wallabies and Waratahs star Michael Hooper will miss the early rounds of the season as part of a contractually-negotiated rest period.

Flyhalf Tate McDermott will make his Queensland Reds captaincy debut in Saturday night’s encounter with the Melbourne Rebels at Suncorp Stadium, while flyhalf James O’Connor will notch his 100-game Super Rugby milestone.

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Utility back Lawson Creighton and scrumhalf Spencer Jeans, who impressed in Saturday’s trial loss to the Waratahs, could debut off the bench as coach Brad Thorn turns to fresh blood to back up Test stars McDermott and O’Connor.

Star centre Hunter Paisami was named on the bench after recovering from his recent COVID-19 infection, while fellow Wallaby Fraser McReight was squeezed out of a quality second row.

Queenslander Sam Wallis will make his starting Super Rugby debut for the Melbourne Rebels after being named at left flanker, while Sef Fa’agase, Tamati Ioane and Ray Nu’u could all debut off the bench.

Wallabies duo Rob Leota and Andrew Kellaway are set to return to the side in the coming weeks, along with Pone Fa’amausili.

Lock Trevor Hosea will be sidelined for the next three-months following a foot injury.

– Justin Chadwick

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