Western Force vs. Hurricanes
The Western Force will return to action in Gosford on Wednesday when they face 2015 Super Rugby finalists the Hurricanes in the first of their two pre-season matches.
The Force have named a strong 28-man squad named for the clash in what should be a competitive fixture.
New recruits Jono Lance, Peter Grant and Semisi Masirewa are all set to play in Force blue for the first time, while Brynard Stander and Ammon Matuauto will return from long-term injuries.
The pre-season match will also be the first in blue for youngsters Jermaine Ainsley, Richard Hardwick and Maalonga Konelio. All three players came through the ranks after strong seasons for the Perth Spirit in Australia's National Rugby Championship (NRC) last year.
Meanwhile, the Hurricanes squad will also host a large number of debutants, with nine players pulling on the famous yellow jersey for the very first time, including Tony Lamborn, former Blues midfielder Pita Ahki, Waikato prop Loni Uhila, Auckland lock Michael Fatialofa, Otago prop Hisa Sasagi, Taranaki scrum-half Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, Wellington lock James Blackwell and exciting backs Malo Tuitama and Peter Umaga-Jensen.
The Hurricanes' All Blacks are all unavailable and will resume playing duties during the second pre-season game against the Blues in Eketahuna on February 13.
Following the departure of All Blacks Conrad Smith and Ma'a Nonu there's plenty of interest around the Canes' potential midfield pairing this season. Ahki and Willis Halaholo will get the first chance to stake claims for the respective 13 and 12 jerseys.
Loose forward Brad Shields will captain the side in the absence of Dane Coles and TJ Perenara, as the 26-man squad look to get their season off to a good start.
Western Force: Dane Haylett-Petty, Luke Morahan, Marcel Brache, Kyle Godwin, Albert Nikoro, Peter Grant, Ian Prior, Angus Cottrell, Chris Alcock, Brynard Stander, Adam Coleman, Steve Mafi, Guy Millar, Nathan Charles, Pek Cowan (C), Heath Tessmann, Chris Heiberg, Jermaine Ainsley, Rory Walton, Ross Haylett-Petty, Richard Hardwick, Kane Koteka, Ryan Louwrensm, Jono Lance, Onehunga Havili, Ammon Matuauto, Semisi Masirewa, Maalonga Konelio
Hurricanes: Jason Woodward, Matt Proctor, Pita Ahki, Willis Halaholo, Wes Goosen, Otere Black, Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, Blade Thomson, Tony Lamborn, Brad Shields (C), Mark Abbott, Vaea Fifita, Jeff Toomaga-Allen, Motu Matu'u, Reg Goodes, Leni Apisai, Loni Uhila, Ben May, Hisa Sasagi, Chris Eves, Michael Fatialofa, James Blackwell, Callum Gibbins, Frae Wilson, Malo Tuitama, Peter Umaga-Jensen.
Venue: Central Coast Stadium, Gosford
Date: Wednesday, 3 February 2016
Kick-off: 08.50am (GMT)
Rebels v Blues
Rebels Head Coach Tony McGahan has named 11 uncapped players for his team’s first competitive fixture of 2016 when they kick off their pre-season with a trial match against the Blues in Auckland on Thursday.
The 24-player squad includes a combination of regular Rebels, extended squad players, U20s and local Melbourne players.
New recruits James Hanson and Reece Hodge, along with Melbourne Rising player Sione Taufa and U20s member Ta Hosea, will pull on a Rebels jersey for the first time after being named in the starting line-up.
The Rebels team for the first trial will feature 12 players returning from last season and 603 Super Rugby games of experience, led by foundation team members Laurie Weeks and Luke Jones.
Rebels: Reece Hodge, Dom Shipperley, Mitch Inman, Mike Harris, Tom English,Jack Debreczeni,Ben Meehan,Ta Hosea, Sione Taufa,Jordy Reid, Luke Jones,Steve Cummins, Laurie Weeks, James Hanson, Toby Smith, Jordon Uelese, Cruze Ah Nau, Ryan Cocker, Murray Douglas, Pom Simona, Angus Fowler, Dan Hawkins, Paul Asquith, Tom Moloney
Venue: Pakuranga Rugby Club, Auckland
Date: Thursday, 4 February 2016
Kick-off: 05.30am (GMT)
Waratahs vs. Brumbies
The Waratahs are set to face the Brumbies, Chiefs and Highlanders in three away trial games ahead of this year's Super Rugby campaign.
The trial matches will be the first for Daryl Gibson as the Waratahs Head Coach and he is looking forward to seeing how the team perform against some of Super Rugby’s toughest opponents.
“Going up against three of the top six 2015 Super Rugby sides, it will be a good chance for us to test ourselves as a team with some competitive matches ahead of the 2016 season,” he said.
“The players have already forged some strong bonds across pre-season so it will be good to see how they come together in a game situation.
“It’ll be great for some of the new guys too. There’s a few new faces who I know will be vying for a spot in the team this year so I’m be keen to see who steps up."
For the Brumbies, the clash against the Waratahs follows their Super Rugby trial held in Wagga Wagga last January against 2015 Super Rugby champions the Highlanders. The Highlanders won that match 24-19.
Some of the Brumbies biggest names are expected to appear against the Waratahs.
With Brumbies stalwarts David Pocock, Joe Tomane, and Wallabies skipper Stephen Moore taking on the likes of Israel Folau, Kurtley Beale and Michael Hooper, this game will give Wagga Wagga fans an opportunity to see a world-class encounter in their own backyard.
The match is pencilled in as one of just two trial matches the Brumbies will play in the lead-up to the 2016 Super Rugby season which will officially begin on Friday 26 February at GIO Stadium in Canberra against the Hurricanes.
Waratahs: Nick Phipps, Matt Lucas, Jake Gordon, Bernard Foley, Andrew Deegan, Kurtley Beale, David Horwitz, Jim Stewart, Matt Carraro, Rob Horne, Zac Guildford, Andrew Kellaway, Reece Robinson, Henry Clunies-Ross, Harry Jones, Israel Folau, Benn Robinson, Paddy Ryan, Jeremy Tilse, Angus Ta’avao, Matt Sandell, Tom Robertson, Cameron Orr, Tatafu, Polota-Nau, Tolu Latu, Hugh Roach, Will Skelton, Dean Mumm, Sam Lousi, Senio Toleafoa, Ryan McCauley, David Dennis Jack Dempsey, Michael Hooper (C), Jed Holloway, Wycliff Palu, Brad Wilkin, Ned Hanigan,
Venue: McDonalds Park, Wagga Wagga
Date: Saturday, 6 February
Kick-off: 10:00 am (GMT)