St.George Queensland Reds centre Samu Kerevi will make his run-on debut for Queensland, in one of three changes to the starting team ahead of this weekend’s clash against the Western Force in Perth.
A continuation of the Reds’ horror run of injuries has forced all three changes, with last week’s starters Greg Holmes (knee), Dom Shipperley (ankle) and Anthony Fainga’a (calf) all ruled out of this week’s match.
Kerevi will start at outside centre, with Ben Tapuai shifting to inside. Ben Daley returns to the starting lineup at loosehead prop, with James Slipper shifting to tighthead, after Holmes was ruled out of this weekend’s match due to a knee complaint. Lachie Turner will start on the wing in place of Shipperley, who suffered a season-ending fracture-dislocation of his ankle last weekend.
The Reds are also without the services of Quade Cooper (shoulder/hip), Will Genia (ankle), Chris Feauai-Sautia (shoulder), Aidan Toua (pectoral), Eddie Quirk (knee) and Liam Gill (Australian Sevens duties). In all, there are currently seven players with Wallabies experience unavailable for selection.
The injuries have forced Reds head coach Richard Graham to make significant changes to last weekend’s replacements bench as well, with four players set to make their debut for the Reds if called upon during the match.
Reds wider training squad members Sef Faagase (prop), Tim Buchanan (back row), Scott Gale (scrumhalf) and Sam Johnson (centre) are all uncapped for Queensland and have been named in this week’s 23. Should they take the field on Saturday, that will move the total Reds debutants in 2014 to eight.
Graham praised the players who have been given an opportunity in this weekend’s match.
“After an injury plagued pre-season and more time on the sidelines following the trials, Samu (Kerevi) has made good progress,” he said.
“It has been evident in his two games that he continues to develop and understands how he can contribute to the team doing well. A large part of that is the work he does off the ball, the work that tends to go unnoticed by everyone other than his teammates.
“We have the possibility of awarding another four debutants with their first Queensland cap this weekend. All four have been part of our Wider Training Squad this year and have made significant contributions to our Rugby programs.
“It would be great reward for Bucky’s (Tim Buchanan) perseverance and persistence if he gets onto the field. He has been part of the Reds programs and playing at UQ (University of Queensland) since 2006.
“Sef (Faagase) has had a taste of game day but never got onto the field against the Highlanders. Sammy (Johnson) was a strong contributor in the Reds A run to the final of the Pacific Rugby Cup and Scotty (Gale) has been with us or the Under-20s programs since October last year. I am extremely confident in all of them making strong contributions to our performance in Perth this weekend.”
Graham said the squad continued to push for a strong finish to the season, despite the considerable disruption due to ongoing injuries.
“I am really pleased with the way we have continued to work hard and looked for ways to improve,” he said.
“That the squad are finishing the season strongly is a good sign. Our past two performances have demonstrated a more abrasive approach around the contact and a more consistent use of the width in our attacking game.
“Whilst our run of injuries hasn’t been ideal, it has presented a number of the training group with playing opportunities. That in itself is exciting for us as a squad and the energy and intensity at training has been exceptionally good. We are determined to finish our season in good fashion.
“The Force are a good team. They have had a solid season to date and have played a disciplined style of Rugby. They will see this game as an opportunity to get one foot into the finals campaign.”
The Reds and Force have met 11 times in the history of Super Rugby. Queensland has won six, lost four and drawn one.
The Reds play the Western Force this Saturday 5 July at nib Stadium at 7:40pm (EST).
St.George Queensland Reds team to play Western Force
1. Ben Daley
2. James Hanson
3. James Slipper
4. Rob Simmons
5. James Horwill (C)
6. Curtis Browning
7. Beau Robinson
8. Jake Schatz
9. Nick Frisby
10. Ben Lucas
11. Lachie Turner
12. Ben Tapuai
13. Samu Kerevi (run-on debut)
14. Rod Davies
15. Mike Harris
16. Saia Fainga’a
17. Albert Anae
18. Sef Faagase (potential debut)
19. Dave McDuling
20. Tim Buchanan (potential debut)
21. Scott Gale (potential debut)
22. Sam Johnson (potential debut)
23. Jamie-Jerry Taulagi