Reds scrum-half Nick Frisby will earn a milestone 50th cap for his side this Friday when they face off with the Crusaders in Christchurch.
The Reds have made two changes to their starting side for the match, with Queensland U20s standout Campbell Magnay brought in for injured centre Samu Kerevi (hand) and Chris Feauai-Sautia recovering from an ankle injury to resume his place on the wing.
Feauai-Sautia’s return to the XV has shifted utility back Junior Laloifi to the bench, with Ayumu Goromaru dropping out of the 23.
“This is an important match for us. To play any of the Kiwi teams is always a step up in intensity but the Crusaders in Christchurch is a fantastic challenge for the group and will give us a fair indication of how much progress we’ve made,” said Reds co-interim head coach Matt O’Connor.
“It’s a great occasion for Nick Frisby, but the reward will be in what the team can produce on the night.
“Nick has a big responsibility with the group at the moment. He’s a senior player and a leader. He has stepped up admirably this year and he’s getting better and better each game. He will be a big part of the success of the group moving forward.
“It’s good to be able to welcome Chris (Feauai-Sautia) back into the side. It was unfortunate he missed a couple of games through injury as he has been really good for us throughout the year. He trained well this week and will be really important for us tomorrow.
“As for Campbell (Magnay), he’s already played a handful of games of Super Rugby, so he’s comfortable at this level. He was outstanding throughout the 20s program and played outside centre throughout their championship run. He’s trained with us all season so he certainly deserves an opportunity. We have a lot of faith in him.
“The Crusaders are playing really good footy. They’ve probably recaptured the vibe they had a couple of seasons ago. They’ll ask a lot of questions of us across the game in every aspect.”
Reds: 15 Karmichael Hunt, 14 Chris Feauai-Sautia, 13 Campbell Magnay, 12 Anthony Fainga’a, 11 Eto Nabuli, 10 Jake McIntyre, 9 Nick Frisby, 8 Curtis Browning, 7 Liam Gill, 6 Hendrik Tui, 5 Rob Simmons, 4 Ben Matwijow, 3 Greg Holmes, 2 Andrew Ready, 1 James Slipper (c)
Replacements: 16 Saia Fainga’a, 17 Sef Fa’agase, 18 Sam Talakai, 19 Cadeyrn Neville, 20 Michael Gunn, 21 James Tuttle, 22 Sam Greene, 23 Junior Laloifi
Date: Friday, May 6
Venue: AMI Stadium, Christchurch
Kick-off: 19:35 local (07:35 GMT)
Referee: Brendon Pickerill
Assistant Referees: Jamie Nutbrown, Kane McBride
TMO: Chris Wratt