BAHRAIN RFC head coach Louie Tonkin has named a strong ‘Select XV’ for this weekend’s opening round of the Gulf Conference in Kuwait.
As the opening fixture in this second edition of the competition, there are no eligibility issues and so Tonkin has packed his side with players who are likely to feature in the upcoming first Champions League and West Asia Premiership clashes against Kandy and Abu Dhabi Harlequins respectively.
Up front, Lindsey Gibson is one of six starters backing up from last weekend’s disappointing defeat to the Harlequins in their maiden Champions League outing and he is joined by the returning Arron Dalgarno and Davis Tui - in his first appearance for the club since suffering a serious knee injury against Dubai Hurricanes last September.
Max Sale and Jon Kenny make up a brand new locking pair after both appeared off the bench last week while tearaway duo Rhys Fitzgerald and Alastair Crombie start again.
After enduring a difficult time in his first senior start at loosehead prop last weekend, Bahrain’s Mr Versatility Matt McKee slots in at number eight.
Rob Bennett takes the scrum-half jersey once again and he is joined by his regular half-back partner from last season in Luke Radley.
After a try-scoring cameo off the bench last week, Iwan Phillips joins fellow recent signing Graham Bishop in the centres, while there’s an all-new back three in Chris Coupland, Joel Lewis and the returning Deina Morete.
On the bench, veteran former club captain Rich Wilkinson has all his dreams come true as he is included alongside select and sevens specialists Rich Ryan, Trevor Morris and Ahmed Shehab; experienced front-row, Jose Navarro and club debutants Blake Henry and John Davis.
Kuwait enjoyed a comfortable victory in Bahrain at the back end of last season but Tonkin has made his intentions to win the Gulf Conference clear from the outset.