St.George Queensland Reds playmaker Ben Lucas has been chosen at flyhalf for Saturdayâ€™s Super Rugby Qualifying Final against the Sharks at Suncorp Stadium.
Lucas is the only change to the starting line-up which scored five tries to beat the Waratahs 32-16 last weekend while versatile youngster Nick Frisby regains his place on the bench.
Lucas has featured in the flyhalf position throughout large parts of 2012 and wore the number 10 jersey against the Sharks in Durban earlier this season, where the Reds led 17-0 before he and Mike Harris succumbed to a hamstring injuries.
The 24-year-old regained the role once fit and led the Reds to victories over New Zealandâ€™s Chiefs and Blues, while also was at the chief playmaking position when the Reds were unlucky not to topple the Crusaders in Christchurch during round 11, where the Reds went down 15-11 despite leading with 10 minutes to go.
Lucas replaces the suspended Quade Cooper after Queensland Rugby chose not to appeal the SANZAR judicial ruling on Thursday night to avoid further disruption to the teamâ€™s title defence.
Reds coach Ewen McKenzie said the group had full confidence in Lucas.
â€śBen has been training at 10 all week and the guys around him are very comfortable with the direction he gives the team as he has gained plenty of experience in the playmaking role during the past two seasons,â€ť McKenzie said.
â€śBefore last week against the Waratahs, we enjoyed arguably our best win of the season against the then competition leading Chiefs with Ben at flyhalf and weâ€™re confident he will get the job done tomorrow night.
â€śBut it isnâ€™t just about Ben, we have 21 other guys who will need to perform to ensure there is a strong platform for which we can launch our attack.â€ť
The Reds will have the added bonus of a strong home crowd with the team having won 21 of their past 23 matches at their fortress, Suncorp Stadium.
â€śWeâ€™ve been given a huge opportunity to play our opening finals game at home where our record indicates that we lift another gear,â€ť McKenzie said.
â€śWeâ€™ve also had a strong week at training and you can sense the level of enthusiasm and excitement grow within the group.Â Theyâ€™re all looking forward to running out in front of a huge Suncorp Stadium crowd and a win would put us just one game away from back-to-back finals.â€ť
St.George Queensland Reds team
1. Greg Holmes
2. Saia Faingaa
3. James Slipper
4. Rob Simmons
5. Adam Wallace-Harrison (vc)
6. Jake Schatz
7. Liam Gill
8. Scott Higginbotham
9. Will Genia (c)
10. Ben Lucas
11. Digby Ioane
12. Mike Harris
13. Anthony Faingaa
14. Dom Shipperley
15. Luke Morahan
16. James Hanson
17. Ben Daley
18. Radike Samo
19. Jarrad Butler
20. Beau Robinson
21. Nick Frisby
22. Ben Tapuai