Reds number eight Jake Schatz will make his return from a four-week injury layoff this week as he slots straight back into the starting side to take on the Crusaders in Christchurch.
The inclusion of Schatz at the back of the scrum is the only personnel change head coach Richard Graham has made to the starting lineup which lost to the Hurricanes two weeks ago.
Schatz comes into the starting side at the expense of recent debutant Adam Korczyk, with Thomson shifting back to blindside flanker.
The Reds also welcome back Ben Tapuai and Jamie-Jerry Taulagi from injury, with both included in the reserves.
Tapuai missed two matches due to a shoulder injury suffered against the Bulls and Taulagi injured his knee in Round 1 against the Brumbies.
Lolo Fakaosilea is also in line to play just his second game of Super Rugby after making his debut against the Hurricanes two weeks ago.
Graham said it was pleasing to welcome some players back into the side ahead Friday’s match.
"We’ve got a number of boys coming back into the squad following the bye. Some are returning from injury and others deserve the opportunity through good form. All will play a part in the team’s performance at some stage," he said.
"Unfortunately Karmichael (Hunt) and Saia (Fainga’a) aren’t available for this match. Karmichael hasn’t come good. Due to illness since we returned from South Africa he hasn’t got the miles in his legs where we could be confident he wouldn’t suffer a restrain of his adductor. With a short block of games to go, we need him fit and available for the majority.
"Saia (Fainga’a) is slowly recovering from his injury in the Bulls game. He is progressing a little slower than originally anticipated but he is now back running and making good progress. We expect a return in the next week or so.
"I have been pleased with Adam Korczyk’s development over the past few weeks but it was always part of our plan to manage his games. Rather than sit on the bench this weekend, he will be available for selection for the Australian Under-20s against the New Zealand Under-20s as part of the lead up to the Junior World Championship."
The Reds and Crusaders have a lengthy history and Graham said the side would travel to Christchurch with the knowledge of how formidable the Crusaders are to play at home.
"This is a strong rivalry that goes back to the beginning of the professional era. When people think of Reds v Crusaders, most would probably have 2011 at the forefront of their mind, but there were many matches played against the Crusaders in the 1990s that were incredible contests," he said.
Reds: 15 Lachie Turner, 14 Chris Feauai-Sautia, 13 Samu Kerevi, 12 Anthony Fainga’a, 11 James O’Connor, 10 Nick Frisby, 9 Will Genia, 8 Jake Schatz, 7 Liam Gill, 6 Adam Thomson, 5 James Horwill, 4 Rob Simmons, 3 Greg Holmes, 2 James Hanson, 1 James Slipper (c).
Replacements: 16 Andrew Ready, 17 Sef Fa'agase, 18 Sam Talakai, 19 Marco Kotze, 20 Lolo Fakaosilea, 21 Scott Gale, 22 Ben Tapuai, 23 Jamie-Jerry Taulagi.
Date: Friday, May 8
Venue: AMI Stadium, Christchurch
Kick-off: 19:35 local (07:35 GMT, 17:35 AEST, 09:35 SAST)
Referee: Mike Fraser (New Zealand)
Assistant Referees: Nick Briant (New Zealand), Paul Williams (New Zealand)
TMO: Vinny Munro (New Zealand)