Queensland Reds head coach Brad Thorn has named a strong starting line-up for Friday’s Super Rugby AU season opener against the Waratahs in Brisbane.
In a reshuffled forward pack, captain Liam Wright will shift to blindside flanker with Fraser McReight coming in at number seven in his first start for the Reds.
Harry Wilson has overcome a torn MCL and will pack down at number eight in what shapes as a formidable back-row combination.
Angus Blyth will partner Lukhan Salakaia-Loto in the second-row, while Brandon Paenga-Amosa has recovered from an ankle injury and takes his spot in the front-row alongside Harry Hoopert and Taniela Tupou.
Tate McDermott and James O’Connor resume their pairing in the halves, as do Hamish Stewart and Hunter Paisami at inside and outside centre respectively.
Bryce Hegarty has been named at full-back, as Jock Campbell shifts to the wing.
Two players could potentially make their Super Rugby and Queensland debuts with lock Tuaina Taii Tualima and outside back Josh Flook both named on the bench.
Following a strong showing in last year’s National Rugby Championship (NRC) with Brisbane City, Tualima was handed a Queensland contract ahead of the 2020 Super Rugby season and has been rewarded for his continual hard work this year.
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A Reds academy product, Flook captained the Australian Schools and U18s side last year and played in the Hospital Challenge Cup Grand Final for Brothers in his rookie year of Queensland Premier Rugby, before being brought into the Reds squad during the recent Covid-19 suspension period.
“We’re pumped to be back playing Rugby again this week,” said Thorn.
“We’ve been in a moment of history – 100 years since the Spanish flu. It’s been a tough four months, but as a group – both players and staff, we’ve worked hard for each other and adapted to the challenges.
“It doesn’t get any better than playing the Waratahs in the season opener. Queensland v New South Wales – there’s plenty of tradition there. It’s a great rivalry and we look forward to continuing that on Friday night.”
“As a club, we continue to bring young talent through our academy and also through club footy. It’s great to see Tuaina and Josh named in the 23. They’ve worked hard and as a group, we congratulate them on this achievement.”
The Reds are away to the Rebels next week before returning home to host the Force at Suncorp Stadium on Friday, July 17.
Reds: 15 Bryce Hegarty, 14 Jock Campbell, 13 Hunter Paisami, 12 Hamish Stewart, 11 Filipo Daugunu, 10 James O’Connor, 9 Tate McDermott, 8 Harry Wilson, 7 Fraser McReight, 6 Liam Wright (c), 5 Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, 4 Angus Blyth, 3 Taniela Tupou, 2 Brandon Paenga-Amosa, 1 Harry Hoopert
Replacements: 16 Alex Mafi, 17 JP Smith, 18 Josh Nasser, 19 Tuaina Taii Tualima, 20 Angus Scott-Young, 21 Scott Malolua, 22 Chris Feauai-Sautia, 23 Josh Flook
Date: Friday, July 3
Venue: Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
Kick-off: 19:05 (10:05 BST, 09:05 GMT)
Referee: Nic Berry
Assistant referees: Damon Murphy, Jordan Way
TMO: Ian Smith