The inclusion of Wallabies pair Tolu Latu and Tom Robertson will help strengthen the theory of NSW Country Eagles captain Paddy Ryan.
The trio were named as the Eagles front-row on Thursday ahead of the minor premiers’ National Rugby Championship semi-final against the Melbourne Rising at No.2 Sportsground on Saturday.
“I believe big games are won by forwards and the backs decide by how much,” former Australian representative and current NSW Waratahs prop Ryan said. “So hopefully our forwards can get on top and our red hot backline can do the job.”
Ryan, born and bred in Tamworth, said he was confident No.8 Sam Ward would line up for the Eagles despite sustaining an ankle injury in last weekend’s final round win.
The visitors will be without injured skipper and halfback Nic Stirzaker but welcome back Wallabies winger Sefanaia Naivalu.
The Eagles, who were beaten at the same stage of the competition last year, have a captain’s run in Newcastle on Friday afternoon.
Kick-off is 3pm.
NSW COUNTRY EAGLES: Paddy Ryan ©, Tolu Latu, Tom Robertson, Rohan O’Reegan, Tim Buchanan, Sam Figg, Rowan Perry, Sam Ward, Jake Gordon, Andrew Deegan, Alex Newsome, Kyle Godwin, David Horwitz, Reece Robinson, Andrew Kellaway, Luke Holmes/Folau Fa’ainga, Jed Gillespie, Sam Needs, Ryan McCauley/Sam Croke, Tom Cusack, Mark Baldwin/Tom Hill, Taylor Adams, Angus Roberts.