Hunt returns via Reds bench

Date published: April 2 2015

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Reds head coach Richard Graham has made three changes to his starting XV to take on the Rebels in Melbourne on Friday.

Greg Holmes, Liam Gill and Chris Feauai-Sautia are back in the starting side, while Sef Faagase and Karmichael Hunt return to action via the reserves.

This will be Holmes’ first start in 2015, after returning from injury last week via the bench. His promotion pushes Sam Talakai out of the matchday 23, with Faagase coming in as reserve tighthead.

Gill is straight back into the starting side after missing two weeks due to suspension for a dangerous tackle. He replaces Curtis Browning, who retains a spot in the 23 via the bench.

In the backs. Feauai-Sautia returns to the starting wing ahead of Chris Kuridrani, who has been shifted to the bench.

Hunt will play his first game since Round One of Super Rugby after sitting out for six weeks due to suspension.

Graham said his side was looking forward to seeing what they could produce following another week of training together – with so many players having returned from injury the previous week.

“Even though there has been disruption this week with the Wallabies camp, I am pleased we are playing Friday night. I felt we made some good progress last week and I want to see us play again to see further improvement,” he told the Reds' official website.

“Last week we started well but lacked combination. The longer the game went the better our performance was. I thought the contribution of the bench was positive and they provided us with an opportunity to ultimately win the game.

“The playing group are conscious of the need to get better quickly and are pushing each other to ensure we transfer that through to our performance against the Rebels.

“Whilst not ideal under the circumstances, Liam (Gill) probably needed a break to overcome one or two issues with his body. He returns having served his suspension and is under no illusions as to what we expect from him moving forward. He is disappointed to have missed a game and is aware of the work around the team he needs to do this weekend.

“Curtis (Browning) is a little unlucky. He performed his role very well on the weekend, he was strong in the collision, however he’ll drop back to the bench.

“Greg (Holmes) has been rewarded with a start due to his scrummaging performance at the back end of the game. I also believe his experience and influence around the group will be beneficial particularly during the opening exchanges.

“Sam Talakai has done a good job for the team over the past six rounds but we need to keep the front row all ticking over. He will drop out of the squad and Sef (Faagase) will get an opportunity to contribute from the bench.

“Karmichael (Hunt) has trained with the team for the past two weeks after completing his stand down period. He was on a modified program for the previous month and returns in good physical condition. He is aware that he let the team down and is determined to make a positive contribution to our performance whenever he gets the opportunity.

“Like us the Rebels will be desperate for a win. I expect there will be a fair bit of feeling in this one. They have been strong at the collision all season and have been there or thereabouts each week. We are looking forward to it.”

Reds: 15 Lachie Turner, 14 Chris Feauai-Sautia, 13 Samu Kerevi, 12 Anthony Fainga’a, 11 James O’Connor, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia, 8 Jake Schatz, 7 Liam Gill, 6 Adam Thomson, 5 James Horwill, 4 Dave McDuling, 3 Greg Holmes, 2 James Hanson, 1 James Slipper (c).
Replacements: 16 Ben Daley, 17 Saia Fainga’a, 18 Sef Faagase, 19 Marco Kotze, 20 Curtis Browning, 21 Nick Frisby, 22 Chris Kuridrani, 23 Karmichael Hunt.

Date: Friday, April 3
Venue: AAMI Park, Melbourne
Kick-off: 19.40 local (08.40 GMT, 21.40 NZST, 10.40 SAST)
Referee: Matt O'Brien (Australia)
Assistant Referees: Andrew Lees (Australia), Michael Hogan (Australia)
TMO: George Ayoub (Australia)

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