The Queensland Reds have named their team to play the Melbourne Rebels in their Super Rugby opener at AAMI Park in Melbourne this Friday.
The starting side features two changes from the XV which took on Fiji Warriors in the Reds’ final pre-season match at Ballymore last week.
The Reds have welcomed lock Izack Rodda (shoulder) and winger Eto Nabuli (wrist) back from injury and into the starting team.
Rodda has earned a starting spot ahead of Kane Douglas, who shifts to the bench, while Nabuli returns in place of Izaia Perese, who suffered a knee injury in the match against the Warriors.
The match will also see former National Rugby Championship representative Brandon Paenga-Amosa make his Queensland and Super Rugby debut as the side’s starting hooker. The 22-year-old joined the Reds from the NSW Country Eagles in November last year, following the announcement of Stephen Moore’s retirement.
The Reds have also named three potential Super Rugby debutants on the bench in flanker Liam Wright, scrumhalf Tate McDermott and winger Filipo Daugunu. While JP Smith is in line to make his Queensland debut, having previously represented the Brumbies in Super Rugby.
Reds head coach Brad Thorn said: “There’s a lot of excitement within the group to have finally reached this point in the season. Pre-season was a tough slog, but we were pleased with the work. Now it’s time for the real thing.
“For the coaches, the pleasing thing is it wasn’t an easy task to select this first team. There was a lot of competition for spots, everyone had to fight to earn a place in the team.
“It’s obviously a positive for us to have Izack (Rodda) and Eto (Nabuli) back in the mix. The medical staff have done a great job to get them back in time for our first match and the players themselves have worked hard to get themselves right for it. We’re disappointed not to have Izaia (Perese), but Eto will step into that role and it also provides an opportunity for Filipo (Daugunu) to come off the bench.
“There’s a few guys in line to make their debut on Friday and that’s always a special time. What’s important is that we make it a memorable one for them.”
Reds: 15 Aidan Toua, 14 Chris Feauai-Sautia, 13 Samu Kerevi, 12 Duncan Paia’aua, 11 Eto Nabuli, 10 Jono Lance, 9 James Tuttle, 8 Scott Higginbotham (c), 7 Adam Korczyk, 6 Caleb Timu, 5 Lukhan Tui, 4 Izack Rodda, 3 Taniela Tupou, 2 Brandon Paenga-Amosa, 1 James Slipper
Replacements: 16 Alex Mafi, 17 JP Smith, 18 Sef Fa’agase, 19 Kane Douglas, 20 Liam Wright, 21 Tate McDermott, 22 Hamish Stewart, 23 Filipo Daugunu
Date: Friday, February 23
Venue: AAMI Park
Kick-off: 19:40 local (08:45 GMT)
Referee: Brendon Pickerill (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Nicholas Berry (Australia), Jordan Way (Australia)
Television match official: Ian Smith (Australia)