Reds debuts for O’Connor and Thomson

Date published: February 19 2015

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Reds head coach Richard Graham has made four changes to his matchday squad for Saturday's clash with the Western Force in Brisbane.
 
Two of the changes are to the starting side, with former All Blacks flanker Adam Thomson and Wallabies utility back James O’Connor named to make their Reds debut.
 
Thomson will start at blindside flanker, with Curtis Browning shifting to the bench. O’Connor has been named starting flyhalf, with Karmichael Hunt returning to fullback.
 
On the bench, former Australian Schoolboys and U20s representative Tom Murday replaces Ed O’Donoghue at lock. Murday was part of the Reds Wider Training Squad in 2013 before heading to New Zealand to join ITM Cup side Northland.

He was a member of the Auckland Blues Super Rugby Extended Player Squad last year before returning home to train with the Reds. Should he take the field this weekend it will be his Super Rugby debut.
 
The other change to the reserves sees utility Sam Johnson come in for Duncan Paia’aua, who has been ruled out following a head knock in last week’s match.

Johnson, a bruising centre, made his Super Rugby debut for the Reds last season and is a member of the club’s Elite Development Squad.
 
Graham said his side was looking forward to returning to Suncorp Stadium for the first time since July 2014.
 
“It is great to be back in Brisbane and playing in front of our own supporters at Suncorp Stadium," he told the Reds official website.

"Last weekend was a poor performance, the group recognise that and they are determined to deliver a strong performance on Saturday.
 
“Our focus this week has been mainly around getting our set piece and defence right. The game usually flows on the back of controlling the collision zone and they start with those two areas.”
 
Graham added it was good to finally welcome O’Connor and Thomson in to the match-day squad after the pair missed last week’s opening round match.
 
“I have been talking for a while now about James and Adam making their debuts for the Reds. With some certainty I can finally say after a good week’s preparation that both of the boys will start this weekend,” he said.
 
“Adam has only been with the group now two weeks but has fitted in superbly. As a leader and a footballer he has been able to contribute positively to what we are doing.
 
“James will wear the Number 10 jersey. He has spent the last two weeks training fully with the team and looks settled. He is motivated to help the team around the field and allow the side to find their attacking framework. Karmichael and he will split the role on some first phase and phase attack.
 
“We have handed out a few debuts in the early rounds. Whilst James and Adam have played Test Rugby, both are enthused by the privilege that comes with wearing the Reds jersey.
 
“At the other extreme, Tom Murday is making his Super Rugby debut turning 26 later this year. He has put in a lot of hard yards and travelled across the Tasman (playing ITM) to earn this opportunity. The playing group are excited for him and he will enjoy the occasion Saturday night.
 
“The Force played well last weekend. They were strong defensively and controlled field position well. We know that physicality will play a big part in this match.”
 
Reds: 15 Karmichael Hunt, 14 Chris Kuridrani, 13 Chris Feauai-Sautia, 12 Samu Kerevi, 11 Lachie Turner, 10 James O’Connor, 9 Will Genia, 8 Jake Schatz, 7 Liam Gill, 6 Adam Thomson, 5 James Horwill 4 Marco Kotze, 3 Sam Talakai, 2 Saia Fainga’a, 1 James Slipper (c).
Replacements: 16 James Hanson, 17 Ben Daley, 18 Sef Faagase, 19 Tom Murday, 20 Curtis Browning, 21 Nick Frisby, 22 Sam Johnson, 23 Campbell Magnay.

Date: Saturday, February 21
Venue: Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
Kick-off: 18:40 local (08:40 GMT)
Referee: Steve Walsh (Australia)
Assistant Referees: Shane McDermott (New Zealand), Paul Williams (New Zealand)
TMO: Glen Newman (New Zealand)

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