St.George Queensland Reds defensive linchpin Anthony Faingaa returns from injury at outside centre for Fridayâ€™s round four Super Rugby clash against the Melbourne Rebels at AAMI Park in Melbourne.
The injection of the talented 26-year-old in tomorrowâ€™s crucial Australian derby is a major boost for the Reds with Faingaa fully recovered from the hand injury he sustained during the teamâ€™s opening trial game of 2013 against the Blues in Toowoomba in February.
Faingaa is one of three changes made by Director of Coaching Ewen McKenzie with scrumhalf Nick Frisby earning his first Super Rugby starting role and Jono Lance coming into fullback.
Frisby will receive his first start with all 12 of his previous Super Rugby caps coming as a replacement from the bench.
During his nine-game Super Rugby career, Lance has started at both centre positions and at fullback although the last time he wore the number 15 jersey was in Queenslandâ€™s historic Super Rugby Final triumph in 2011.
In that year, Lance was the Reds starting fullback in his first four career Super Rugby matches following his debut against the Western Force in round 17.
McKenzie said the Reds would benefit from Faingaaâ€™s return in all facets of their game.
â€śAnthonyâ€™s an experienced player that brings a lot of the energy to the group with his enthusiasm and leadership, so weâ€™re happy he is healthy once again,â€ť McKenzie said.
â€śWeâ€™ve been deliberately conscious not to rush his injury but at the same time he has been training strongly with the group for more than a fortnight now and we are confident he will add another dimension to our performance.
â€śBen Lucas was given additional time to recover from his shoulder injury and has done well enough to convince us to put him on the bench.Â But, being a shortened week with the Friday game, weâ€™ve been preparing with Nick at scrumhalf since Monday so he gets the chance to start.
â€śIn the end, Nick and Ben have both received significant game time this year, so the expectation is that theyâ€™ll continue to do the things they do well irrespective of who begins the game.
â€śJono is a proven performer at fullback and was excellent throughout the 2011 Finals Series at the position, so we have no hesitations about giving him an opportunity there.
â€śHe was also a standout in the Reds College XV match over the weekend and we are all about rewarding strong performance.â€ť
Slipper will captain the Reds for a fourth straight match as part of an unchanged starting forward pack which includes fellow prop Greg Holmes and hooker Saia Faingaa in the front-row; Ed Oâ€™Donoghue and Rob Simmons in the second row; and young trio Jake Schatz, Liam Gill and Eddie Quirk in the backrow.
Frisby joins Quade Cooper in the halves; Anthony Faingaa combines with Ben Tapuai in the centres; and Digby Ioane and Dom Shipperley remain on the wings.
The Reds are undefeated against the Melbourne Rebels in their short four-game Super Rugby history with a 53-3 win at Suncorp Stadium in their inaugural season in 2011 both the most points scored and largest winning margin by the Reds in the competition.
Following Fridayâ€™s match the Reds will return to Suncorp Stadium on Saturday 16 March to play their fourth Australian opponent of 2013 in the Western Force.
St.George Queensland Reds team to play Melbourne Rebels
1. Greg Holmes
2. Saia Faingaa
3. James Slipper (c)
4. Ed O’Donoghue
5. Rob Simmons
6. Eddie Quirk
7. Liam Gill
8. Jake Schatz
9. Nick Frisby
10. Quade Cooper
11. Digby Ioane
12. Ben Tapuai
13. Anthony Faingaa
14. Dom Shipperley
15. Jono Lance
16. James Hanson
17. Albert Anae
18. Adam Wallace-Harrison
19. Radike Samo
20. Ben Lucas
21. Mike Harris
22. Chris Feauai-Sautia