The Hurricanes arrive in Brisbane on the back of a hefty defeat to the Blues in Round Two and looking to bounce back.
The Hurricanes arrive in Brisbane on the back of a hefty defeat to the Blues in Round Two and hungry to bounce back.
A thrilling second-half in Wellington saw the 'Canes score tries through Julian Savea, who could have had another if he had not been impeded. The outcome instead was a penalty try.
Scores though from Rene Ranger and Frank Halai in the final ten minutes for the Blues, condemned the Hurricanes to a loss in their opening game of the season.
Mark Hammett has made only one change to the side for this week's clash against the Reds, with prop Jeffery Toomaga-Allen coming in at tighthead in place of Ben May.
Hurricanes skipper Conrad Smith fortunately is fit after suffering a concussion last weekend and will face-off in an exciting clash at outside centre with young Reds star Chris Feauai-Sautia.
Meanwhile for the Reds, Aidan Toua will start at full-back as a replacement for Mike Harris. James Slipper again captains the side from tighthead prop, whilst there is a welcome sight in the return of Radike Samo to the Reds bench.
The 2011 champions started hard and fast against the Waratahs and needed every point of their 17-0 buffer to hang on last weekend – Dom Shipperley's early strike and Tapuai's interception putting them out in front.
It took a moment of magic from Reds flanker Ed Quirk to kill the game off after the 'Tahs had levelled the scores, getting their season back on track after a thumping defeat away to the Brumbies in Round One.
Selecting Toua ahead of Harris will give the Reds more of a running-threat from the back and the hosts showed flashes of their open attacking game against the Waratahs.
Where the Reds may come unstuck however is with injuries to key players – Will Genia, James Horwill and Anthony Fainga'a remain sidelined and are up against a well-balanced Hurricanes outfit spearheaded by the experience of Smith, Jason Eaton and Victor Vito – not to mention an exciting half-back combination in TJ Perenara and Beauden Barrett and the threat of Savea out wide.
The overall impression is that the Hurricanes can play an awful lot better than they showed against the Blues, whilst the Reds still miss the influence of Genia and Horwill in their decision-making. Both factors make this one close to call.
Prediction: The Hurricanes hold an excellent record over the Reds, with the hosts' last victory over the Wellington franchise coming in 2007. Suncorp Stadium played a key role in the Reds' victory last weekend and their fortress may prove the deciding factor again this time out in a close game. Reds by 6!
Reds: 15 Aidan Toua, 14 Dom Shipperley, 13 Chris Feauai-Sautia, 12 Ben Tapuai, 11 Digby Ioane, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Ben Lucas, 8 Jake Schatz, 7 Liam Gill, 6 Eddie Quirk, 5 Ed O'Donoghue, 4 Rob Simmons, 3 James Slipper (c), 2 Saia Faingaa, 1 Greg Holmes.
Replacements: 16 James Hanson, 17 Albert Anae, 18 Adam Wallace-Harrison, 19 Radike Samo, 20 Nick Frisby, 21 Mike Harris, 22 Luke Morahan.
Hurricanes: 15 Andre Taylor, 14 Alapati Leiua, 13 Conrad Smith (c), 12 Tim Bateman, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Brad Shields, 7 Karl Lowe, 6 Victor Vito, 5 Jason Eaton, 4 Jeremy Thrush, 3 Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Ben Franks.
Replacements: 16 Motu Matu'u, 17 Reggie Goodes, 18 James Broadhurst, 19 Faifili Levave, 20 Chris Smylie, 21 James Marshall, 22 Reynold Lee-Lo.
Date: Friday, March 1
Kick-off: 21:20 local (10:20 GMT)
Venue: Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
Referee: Steve Walsh (Australia)
Assistant referees: Andrew Lees (Australia), Damien Mitchelmore (Australia)
Television match official: Steve Leszczynski (Australia)