St.George Queensland Reds scrumhalf Will Genia will make his return from injury as part of three changes made to the starting line-up for Saturday’s round five Super Rugby clash against the Western Force at Suncorp Stadium (kickoff 6:30pm).
Along with the highly anticipated return of Genia, the Reds side will feature a new wing combination with flyer Luke Morahan and young gun Chris Feauai-Sautia coming into the starting XV.
19-year-old Feauai-Sautia has flourished in his four appearances this year, including two games as the team’s starting outside centre, while for Morahan his selection represents his first opportunity in the starting line-up for 2013.
The duo come in for wingers Digby Ioane and Dom Shipperley, who has been ruled out of the match with a minor back injury.
For Genia, he will be taking the field for the first time since suffering an ACL injury in Australia’s 26-19 victory over South Africa in Perth on September 8. Genia will captain the side in his return with prop James Slipper the team’s vice-captain.
Reds Director of Coaching Ewen McKenzie said the return of Genia would provide a positive spark for a Reds side who had stepped up and performed strongly in his absence.
“It’s great to have Will Genia fit once again but I’ve also been impressed with the way this side has functioned during the opening month, coming away with three crucial wins despite missing some of our senior guys,” McKenzie said.
“Younger guys have stepped up, brought into what we are trying to deliver both on and off the field, and ultimately delivered a result.
“Their efforts have put us in a strong position as we continue to welcome back some of our more experienced guys. Already Radike Samo and Anthony Faingaa have re-joined the group while Will Genia makes his return on Saturday.
“We will be without Digby and Dom on Saturday but I’ve got complete faith in both Luke and Chris to get the job done.
“Chris has already thrived in his opportunities this year while Luke has been a proven performer since debuting for the Reds in 2009 and he also earned his first cap for the Wallabies only last year.”
For the fourth consecutive match the Reds will field an unchanged starting forward pack with Slipper, hooker Saia Faingaa and Greg Holmes packing down in the front-row; Ed O’Donoghue and Rob Simmons in the second row; and Eddie Quirk, Liam Gill and Jake Schatz in the backrow.
Genia reignites his successful playmaking partnership with Quade Cooper in the halves, the formidable pairing of Ben Tapuai and Anthony Faingaa remain in the centres, and Jono Lance joins Morahan and Feauai-Sautia as part of a young but talented back three.
On the bench, young flanker Jarrad Butler joins James Hanson, Albert Anae and Radike Samo as cover for the forwards while Nick Frisby, Mike Harris and Aidan Toua are the backs.
The Reds are chasing their fourth straight Super Rugby victory on Saturday night when they return to their fortress at Suncorp Stadium, where the Reds have also won 23 of their past 26 matches.
McKenzie said it was important for the side to continue pushing forward in the competition.
“We’re in a strong position having won our past three matches but it’s important we go on with the job and consolidate the hard work we’ve been putting in against the Force,” he said.
“That means both in terms of getting another result but also performance. We’ve been making noticeable improvements with each match we play and the expectation will be no different come Saturday night.”
St.George Queensland Reds team to play Western Force
1. Greg Holmes
2. Saia Faingaa
3. James Slipper (vc)
4. Ed O’Donoghue
5. Rob Simmons
6. Eddie Quirk
7. Liam Gill
8. Jake Schatz
9. Will Genia (c)
10. Quade Cooper
11. Chris Feauai-Sautia
12. Ben Tapuai
13. Anthony Faingaa
14. Luke Morahan
15. Jono Lance
16. James Hanson
17. Albert Anae
18. Radike Samo
19. Jarrad Butler
20. Nick Frisby
21. Mike Harris
22. Aidan Toua