NRC champs to give WA rugby their Spirit

Western Force remain a hot topic in WA but Perth Spirit are looking to grab the spotlight when the enhanced NRC returns this weekend.

Defending National Rugby Championship champions Perth Spirit will be looking to return some impetus to the game in Western Australian when the newly enhanced nine-team domestic competition commences this weekend.

Perth rugby is in a state of revolt after the removal of Western Force from the Super Rugby competition, and the Australian Rugby Union's reluctance to engage with billionaire backer Andrew Forrest following a belated offer of financial assistance.

The fourth season of the NRC commences on Friday with a new Pacific flavour after the arrival of the Fijian Drua, in addition to domestic teams from NSW, Queensland, Perth, Melbourne and Canberra.

Up to 10 Wallabies will be available to play this weekend in the lead-up to the Test match against South Africa; among them Curtis Rona (Perth Spirit) and Samu Kerevi (Brisbane City).

Perth commence as defending champions but are likely to carry little momentum from last season after a significant change of playing personnel, as well as a new coach in Kevin Foote.

"We are not going out to defend the title, we are going out to win a new title," Spirit captain and scrum-half Michael George Ruru said.

"It is a new team, with new coaching staff, and we are going out with fresh minds and a fresh spirit.

"We have different personnel but the same goal."

The Fijians will commence their NRC campaign on Saturday against Brisbane City at Ballymore, with Queensland Country visiting Canberra Vikings.

The Spirit conclude the round on Sunday against Melbourne Rising, while Greater Sydney Rams tackle NSW Country Eagles.

The newly-formed Drua have generated significant interest in Fiji ahead of the team's first home match against NSW Country Eagles in Sigatoka on 16 September.

"This will be like an international games for us," Drua scrum-half Seru Vularika said.

"And it will be a big challenge for us local players to travel to Australia and play these teams.

"There is an extremely big gap between (Fijian) club and international rugby, but this provides a step."

Meanwhile ARU CEO Bill Pulver strongly backed the competition as providing "a very important gap in our player development pathway".

"We have just finished two really great premier rugby competitions in Sydney and Brisbane, and now for the best of those players to get a national stage to show their talent and push for a contract at a Super Rugby club is a great opportunity," he said.

Source AAP

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