Reds head coach Richard Graham has named seven debutants in his side for the opening round of Super Rugby against the Brumbies.
The match-day squad features Lachie Turner returning from injury to play his first game in 2015 and scrum-half Will Genia playing his 100th Super Rugby game, after already earning his 100th cap for Queensland in 2014.
Seven players stand to make their Super Rugby debut for Queensland.
On debut in the starting lineup are prop Sam Talakai, lock Marco Kotze and fly-half Karmichael Hunt, along with prop Sef Faagase, flanker Adam Korczyk, flyhalf Duncan Paia’aua and winger Campbell Magnay on the bench.
Graham congratulated the players for their hard work in the lead up to the competition.
“The forwards have performed strongly in the two pre-season games. Whilst Sam Talakai, Marco Kotze, Sef Faagase and Adam Korczyk are making their debuts at this level, I have confidence in their abilities. Slipper, Fainga’a, Horwill, Schatz, Gill and Hanson all have plenty of experience at this level and they will ensure the new lads go into the contest well prepared. It’ll be a collective effort.”
“I thought Hunt controlled the game well last week and had earned the opportunity to start in the flyhalf jersey. He has the confidence and support of the entire team. We all know what he is capable of and his experience at the highest level in multiple codes has set him up well for his Super Rugby debut.
“Duncan Paia’aua responded well in the Crusaders match after a difficult experience in Cairns where the conditions were extremely humid. He demonstrated some resilience and the playing group were all pleased for him knowing what he is capable of. Campbell Magnay continues to grow in confidence with every game, whether it was NRC or now in the Super Rugby pre-season matches. He is a big kid for an 18-year-old and is an incredible athlete.”
Unavailable for selection due to injury are Quade Cooper (collar bone), Anthony Fainga’a (knee), Greg Holmes (thumb), Dave McDuling (glute), Eddie Quirk (knee), Beau Robinson (calf), Rob Simmons (shoulder) and Ben Tapuai (hamstring).
James O’Connor and Adam Thomson have not been considered for selection as neither have had enough time to prove their fitness ahead of Round 1.
“There has been some disruption with injuries but every team faces the same challenges in pre-season. We look back with confidence on the quality and volume of work we have done and what we control this week leading into the game, our preparation and our attitude.
“James O’Connor is a day or two shy of being available for selection. He has worked hard to be ready but the medical staff felt it was best to bring him back next week.
“Unfortunately two bouts of illness have not allowed him to consistently get the running loads into his legs after suffering a knee injury in his last match in France. He has been involved in a lot of our sessions and kicking goals but I felt it was best not to risk him in the first game of the season.
"Thomson is in a similar situation. He joined us late in our preparation and has carried a bit of a shoulder complaint in the last couple of weeks. He is the 24th man for the squad this Friday and my preference is to give him another week to ensure he doesn’t carry the injury any further.”
While conditions promise to be testing in Canberra, Graham said his side always looked forward to the traditional derby.
“We have begun the last four or five seasons down in Canberra. It has become a traditional fixture and all are comparable in nature. Forward orientated, physical, strong field position games with close results. We have prepared for a similar contest and looking at the expected weather conditions may not be disappointed.”
“We are very much looking forward to the start of Super Rugby. I’ve thrown a lot of change and challenges at the collective squad and the response has been fantastic. They have all contributed to a strong pre-season, the trials provided us with a clear reference of where we are at and now we move into the competition phase.”
Reds: 15 Jamie-Jerry Taulagi, 14 Chris Kuridrani, 13 Chris Feauai-Sautia, 12 Samu Kerevi, 11 Lachie Turner, 10 Karmichael Hunt, 9 Will Genia, 8 Jake Schatz, 7 Liam Gill, 6 Curtis Browning, 5 Marco Kotze, 4 James Horwill, 3 Sam Talakai, 2 Saia Fainga’a, 1 James Slipper (c)
Replacements: 16 James Hanson, 17 Ben Daley, 18 Sef Faagase, 19 Ed O’Donoghue, 20 Adam Korczyk, 21 Nick Frisby, 22 Duncan Paia’aua, 23 Campbell Magnay.
Date: Friday, February 13
Venue: GIO Stadium, Canberra
Kickoff: 19:40 local (08:40 GMT)
Referee: Angus Gardner
Assistant Referees: James Leckie, Will Houston
TMO: Peter Marshall