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Preview: ARC, Round Six

13th September 2007 17:00

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Round six of the Australian Rugby Championship (ARC) kicks off at the Members Equity Stadium this Saturday, where the resurgent Perth Spirit host the East Coast Aces.

The Sydney Fleet, although they are at home will have to fend off the first placed Western Sydney Rams at the North Sydney Oval.

The Canberra Vikings will want to assert their authority against the visiting Central Coast Rays and the lowly Ballymore Tornadoes will need all the luck they can get when the Melbourne Rebels pay them a visit on Sunday.

Saturday September, 15

Perth Spirit v East Coast Aces

Members Equity, Perth 13.00

The Perth Spirit will be without star full-back Camerion Shepherd when they host the East Coast Aces this Saturday. Shepherd received a Wallaby World Cup call-up earlier this week. That is a huge dent in their plans for ARC glory, as Shepherd has been central to the Spirits resurgence in the past two weeks.

This is compounded by the fact that James Hilgendorf (hamstring), Lachlan MacKay (groin), Junior Pelesasa (hand), Ratu Siganiyavi (hamstring), Nick Cummins (thigh), Haig Sare (groin), David Pocock (knee), Pek Cowan (ankle) and Troy Takiari (groin) have all been ruled out due to injury.

In the same vain five Spirit players will make their long-awaited returns to the ARC this Saturday. Kane Allen, Todd Feather, Edward Jenkins, Luke McClean and Jackson Mullane are all quality players with a lot to offer.

Despite the growing injury list the Spirit will be motivated by the fact that they are playing at home for the last time this season and furthermore, they will realise that they are still serious title contenders.

Prediction: The Spirit have found some good form in the past fortnight and are finally living up to expectations. Coach John Mulvihill has brought some cohesion to what is a squad with tremendous depth and talent. The Aces, although they have played some good rugby at stages this season are far too inconsistent and are likely to incur their third loss of the season by at least five points on Saturday.

Perth Spirit15 Luke McClean 14 Edward Jenkins, 13 Ryan Cross, 12 Todd Feather, 11 Dan Bailey, 10 Scott Daruda, 9 Matt Henjak, 8 Scott Fava, 7 Richard Brown, 6 Scott Fardy, 5 Sitaleki Timani, 4 Tom Hockings, 3 AJ Whalley, 2 Luke Holmes, 1 Gareth Hardy

Replacements:16 Tai McIsaac, 17 Kieran Longbottom, 18 Luke Doherty, 19 William Brock, 20 James Stannard, 21 Kane Allen, 22 Jackson Mullane

East Coast Aces15 Marshall Milroy, 14 Henari Veratau, 13 Charlie Fetoai, 12 Quade Cooper, 11 Brett Stapleton, 10 Ben Lucas, 9 Sam Batty,8 Ben Mowen,7 AJ Gilbert, 6 Josh Afu, 5 Rob Simmons, 4 Will Munsie, 3 Rodney Blake, 2 Jade Ingham, 1 Tama Tuirirangi

Replacements:16 Joe Tufuga, 17 Lloyd Campbell-McBride, 18 James Kriukelis, 19 Dan Ese, 20 Curtis Franks, 21 Waitai Walker, 22 John Dart

Referee: Julian Pritchard

Touch judges: Andrew Lindsay, Matt O'Brien

Television match official: Ian Hailes

Sydney Fleet v Western Sydney Rams

North Sydney Oval, Sydney 15.00

The Fleet will be without suspended lock Will Caldwell for their daunting local derby against the Western Sydney Rams this Saturday.

Matt Whittleston will make only his second start for the Sydney team when he replaces Caldwell on Saturday. The top four in the ARC is starting to take shape now and the Fleet will want to keep themselves in contention.

Coach Col Jeffs has shown tremendous faith in Caldwell's replacement though.

"Matt's been great every time he's been on the field and I've no doubt he'll step up," Jeffs said.

What will definitely inspire Jeffs though is that full-back Gavin Debartolo makes a return to the team after missing out on the loss to the Canberra Vikings last week.

The only other change to the Fleet team will be that of hooker Sam Zlatevski replacing Atonio Halangahu in the team.

Ben Corisa's cruciate ligament injury means that Eastwood's flank Hugh Perrett will have his first opportunity to shine when the Western Sydney Rams battle it out with their local rivals.

Winger Fa'atonu Fili is still an uncertainty with his hamstring complications and could well be replaced by Luke Jonhson should he not pass as fit for this Saturday's much anticipated clash.

Prediction The fact that this is a huge derby won't remove the favourites tag from the Western Sydney Rams, who want to stretch their lead at the top of the ARC table. They are away from home but will emerge victors by at least ten points.

Sydney Fleet:15 Gavin Debartolo, 14 Alfred Mafi, 13 Morgan Turinui, 12 Tom Azar, 11 Junior Puroku, 10 Daniel Halangahu, 9 Nathan Sievert, 8 Tim Davidson, 7 Pat McCutcheon, 6 Dean Mumm, 5 Adam Byrnes, 4 Matt Whittleston, 3 Dayna Edwards, 2 Atonio Halangahu, 1 Jeremy Tilse

Replacements:16 Sam Zlatevski, 17 Laurence Weeks, 18 Lachlan McCutcheon, 19 Chris Houston, 20 Danny Kroll, 21 Anton LaVin, 22 Arthur Little

Western Sydney Rams:15 Lachlan Turner, 14 Ben Martin, 13 Rory Sidey, 12 Lachlan Mitchell, 11 Luke Johnson, 10 Kurtley Beale, 9 Joshua Holmes, 8 Tom Egan, 7 Wil Brame, 6 Hugh Perrett, 5 Van Humphries, 4 Ben Hand, 3 Aaron Broughton-Rouse, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Ben Alexander

Replacements:16Ben Roberts,17 James Lakepa,18 Sam Wykes,19 Marty Wilson,20 David Rimmer, 21 Mark Howell, 22 Fa'atonu Fili

Referee: Nathan Pearce

Touch judges: George Ayoub, Bradley Wahl

Sunday September, 16

Canberra Vikings v Central Coast Rays

Manuka Oval, Canberra 14.30

The phenomenal Canberra Vikings have made three changes to their starting XV for their Round six ARC match against the Central Coast Rays on Sunday.

What will be a crushing blow for the home team is that ARC leading points scorer Matt Carraro will miss the match due to a groin strain, with Rowan Kellam replacing him in the outside backs.

The Central Coast Rays will be without wing Jordan Macey. Macey succumbed to a persistent lower back strain at training during the week, with his place at Manuka Oval to be taken by Northern Suburbs team-mate Jye Mullane.

Both teams are at virtual full-strength for what is another crucial ARC encounter this weekend.

Prediction The Vikings are still the most prolific team in the ARC in terms of points accumulated. It is highly unlikely that they will let the Rays interfere in their title race. The Vikings will win by at least

Canberra Vikings15 Tim Wright, 14 Eddie McLaughlin, 13 Rowan Kellam, 12 Anthony Faingaa, 11 Francis Fainifo, 10 Christian Lealiifano, 9 Nick Haydon, 8 Pauliasi Taumoepeau, 7 Julian Salvi, 6 Jack Vanderglas, 5 Adam Wallace-Harrison, 4 Alister Campbell, 3 Nic Henderson, 2 Huia Edmonds, 1 John Ulugia

Replacements:16Anthony Hegarty,17 Dan Raymond,18 Dan Guinness,19 Peter Kimlin, 20 Patrick Phibbs, 21 Solomona Fainifo, 22 Ben Johnston

Central Coast Rays15 Peter Hewat, 14 Pat McCabe, 13 Ben Jacobs, 12 Sam Harris, 11 Jordan Macey, 10 Sam Norton-Knight, 9 Brett Sheehan, 8 Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, 7 Ross Duncan, 6 Beau Robinson, 5 Chris Thomson, 4 Cameron Treloar, 3 Aaron Tawera, 2 Al Manning, 1 Ofa Fainga'anuku

Repalcements:16 Alex Gluth, 17 Nick Lah, 18 Nifo Nifo, 19 Jason Peseta, 20 David Harvey, 21 Villiame Ratu, 22 Clint Eadie

Referee: Brett Bowden

Touch judges: Damian Mitchelmore, Sarah Corrigan

Television match official: Nathan Kearns

Ballymore Tornadoes v Melbourne Rebels

Ballymore Stadium, Brisbane 16.00

Melbourne Rebels coach Bill Millard has made six changes, one enforced through injury, to his starting XV for Sunday's crucial clash with the Ballymore Tornadoes in Brisbane.

It is a crucial game not because the Tornadoes are a serious threat, but rather because the hunt is officially on for the ARC title and the Rebels will want to strengthen chances with a comprehensive victory against the Tornadoes this Sunday.

The Tornadoes on the other hand have absolutely nothing to play for other than pride. They have lost four of their five ARC games and also lost the one game that they could really have won against the East Coast Aces last Saturday.

Things are looking really ominous for the Queensland team, who need to give their home crowd some reason to cheer this Sunday.

Prediction: The Melbourne Rebels are the second of two away teams that will be favourites this weekend. It would be very surprising if the Tornadoes manage to bounce back from their drought. Expect the Rebels to win by at least ten points.

Ballymore Tornadoes15 Clinton Schifcofske, 14 Elia Tuqiri, 13 Blair Connor, 12 Brett Gillespie, 11 Paul Doneley, 10 Peter Hynes, 9 Will Genia, 8 Leroy Houston, 7 Tom McVerry, 6 Dan Linde, 5 James Horwill, 4 Ed O'Donoghue, 3 Peter Loane, 2 Josh Mann-Rea, 1 Ernest Skelton

Replacements:16 Geoff Abram, 17 Shon Siemonek, 18 Charlies Wyllie, 19 Jared Hanna, 20 Brendan McKibbin, 21 Ray Stowers, 22 Tim Sampson

Melbourne Rebels: 15 Nathan Trist, 14 Peter Playford, 13 James Lew,12 Michael Hobbs, 11 Digby Ioane, 10 Daniel Kelly, 9 Luke Burgess, 8 David Haigh, 7 David Croft(C), 6 Filipe Manu, 5 Richard Stanford, 4 Matt Cockbain, 3 Mike Ross, 2 James Hanson, 1 Scott Cameron

Replacements:16, Nick Churven, 17 Josh Hately,18 Liam Shaw,19 David Haydon,20 Jon McGrath,21 Jack Farrarr,22 Damon Murphy

Referee: James Scholtens

Touch judges: Steve Leszczynski, Simon Moore

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