St.George Queensland Reds and Wallabies captain James Horwill will make his long-awaited return from injury in Saturday nightâ€™s crucial round six Super Rugby match against South Africaâ€™s Bulls at Suncorp Stadium.
Horwillâ€™s frustrating 10-month injury layoff is set to come to an end with the inspirational Reds leader preparing to run out at Suncorp Stadium for the first time since tearing his hamstring on May 26 last year in Queenslandâ€™s 13-12 Super Rugby victory over the ACT Brumbies in Canberra.
The talented Wallabies captain is among five changes made to the starting line-up, along with hooker James Hanson, flanker Jarrad Butler, winger Digby Ioane and centre Anthony Faingaa.
Hanson receives his first starting opportunity of the season following five dynamic early season cameos from the bench while Extended Playing Squad member Jarrad Butler replaces the injured Liam Gill, who is expected to miss just one game with a minor knee injury.
After being a matchday withdrawal from last weekendâ€™s loss to the Western Force, Faingaa has recovered from a back injury to earn his place in the number 13 jersey.
The Reds also have two potential debutants on their 5-2 forward-heavy split on the bench with Extended Playing Squad talent Nigel Ah Wong and Reds College backrower Curtis Browning in line to wear the Reds jersey in Super Rugby for the first time.
Reds Director of Coaching Ewen McKenzie welcomed Horwill back to the side.
â€śGetting James back on the field has been a long time coming and everyone is extremely excited to see him back after what has been a frustrating 10 months without Rugby,â€ť McKenzie said.
â€śIn a perfect world he would have returned sooner if not for an ankle injury he suffered in an unlucky instance at training, but he has handled every challenge thrown at him with class and is now ready to go.
â€śUnfortunately, we do lose Liam Gill for the match through injury. While we donâ€™t consider his injury severe, itâ€™s too early in the season to risk putting him out there and ultimately suffering further damage.
â€śSaia is another that has been battling a neck issue but he has shown us enough during the week to push his way onto the bench.Â Pleasingly, James Hanson has also been playing very well and he gets his chance in the starting team.
â€śDigby will no doubt have added motivation this week after missing the Force game while Anthony is also raring to go after being forced to withdraw from last weekendâ€™s match on the morning of the game.
â€śOn the bench, Curtis and Nigel have been two guys who have continued to improve at training and make the most of their opportunities in the Reds College XVâ€™s three-match program.â€ť
The Reds will be determined to secure a result against the Bulls on Saturday night with Queensland boasting a strong record against the South Africans when playing at home, winning eight of nine matches on Queensland soil.
St.George Queensland Reds team to play the Bulls
1. Greg Holmes
2. James Hanson
3. James Slipper
4. Ed Oâ€™Donoghue
5. James Horwill (c)
6. Eddie Quirk
7. Jarrad Butler*
8. Jake Schatz
9. Will Genia (vc)
10. Quade Cooper
11. Digby Ioane
12. Ben Tapuai
13. Anthony Faingaa
14. Chris Feauai-Sautia
15. Jono Lance
16. Saia Faingaa
17. Albert Anae
18. Rob Simmons
19. Curtis Browning**
20. Nigel Ah Wong**
21. Nick Frisby
22. Mike Harris
*First starting Super Rugby opportunity
**In line to make Reds and Super Rugby debut