St.George Queensland Reds head coach Richard Graham has announced his team to face the Rebels in Melbourne this Friday.
Graham has made just one change to the starting team which defeated the Highlanders in the Reds’ last match before the June Test window.
The forward pack remains unchanged from that match, with the Reds’ Wallabies contingent of James Horwill, Rob Simmons and James Slipper in good health and named in the starting XV for Friday’s clash.
Just one change has been made to the backline that started the Highlanders match, with Nick Frisby named at scrumhalf in place of the injured Will Genia, who is out for the remainder of the Super Rugby season after undergoing ankle surgery last week.
Frisby will partner Reds’ utility Ben Lucas in the halves, who started at flyhalf against the Highlanders last month, after a shoulder injury ruled Quade Cooper out for the remainder of the season.
While the team will be without a familiar partnership in Genia/Cooper, Graham was confident the new pairing would deliver.
“Someone mentioned to me yesterday that it is the first time since 2008 that neither Will (Genia) or Quade (Cooper) have been in the Reds starting line-up,” Graham said.
“Whilst that is unfortunate, I see that as a great opportunity for Pickle (Nick Frisby) and Benny (Lucas) to control the shape of our game. I have absolute confidence in the pair of them delivering what is required.
“I expect the rest of the match squad will be very keen to support the two boys (Frisby and Lucas). They understand what their contribution needs to be and how they can influence the game.”
In the absence of Genia, Graham has named centre Anthony Fainga’a as Reds vice-captain.
“Ant (Fainga’a) deserves the opportunity to be named vice-captain. He demands high standards of himself and has demonstrated on countless occasions his willingness to lead by his actions,” Graham said.
The match sees the welcome return of several players from injury, with Saia Fainga’a, Ben Daley and Lachie Turner named in the reserves.
Both Fainga’a and Daley missed the Highlanders match due to calf and thumb injuries, respectively, while Turner has been out of action since March due to an ankle injury.
“Dales (Ben Daley), Lachie (Turner) and Saia (Fainga’a) all deserved a recall to the bench having worked hard to overcome injury. It has been a long slog for them, but the reward is being named in a squad that is determined to finish the season strongly,” Graham said.
Reds outside back Aidan Toua is expected to be available for selection next week, after recovering from a pectoral injury sustained in March, while outside back Chris Feauai-Sautia (shoulder) and flanker Eddie Quirk (knee) will not be available again this season.
Graham said the team was looking forward to a fierce contest against the Rebels, as both sides look to improve their overall standings in the competition.
“We were very disappointed with the outcome of our previous encounter with the Rebels,” Graham said.
“We felt we needed to deliver a better performance in that match and the team are highly motivated to ensure we deliver something considerably different this time around.
“We have had a strong focus on improving our game throughout the past few weeks. The win against the Highlanders prior to the Test series was important as it demonstrated to the squad that if we continue to work hard the results will come our way.
“Whilst a number of the boys have been involved in the Tests, the remainder of the squad have had a good mix of active rest, training and club Rugby throughout June in preparation for this next block of games. Our focus this week is solely on a strong performance and getting the right outcome down in Melbourne.”
The Reds clash with the Rebels this Friday 27 June at AAMI Park at 7:40pm (EST). Both the Reds and the Rebels will wear specially-designed Indigenous jerseys to commemorate the home side’s Indigenous round.
St.George Queensland Reds team to play Melbourne Rebels
1. James Slipper
2. James Hanson
3. Greg Holmes
4. Rob Simmons
5. James Horwill (C)
6. Curtis Browning
7. Beau Robinson
8. Jake Schatz
9. Nick Frisby
10. Ben Lucas
11. Dom Shipperley
12. Anthony Fainga’a (VC)
13. Ben Tapuai
14. Rod Davies
15. Mike Harris
16. Saia Fainga’a
17. Albert Anae
18. Ben Daley
19. Dave McDuling
20. Liam Gill
21. Samuela Kerevi
22. Jamie-Jerry Taulagi
23. Lachie Turner