The St.George Queensland Reds have announced a strong 23-man line-up for their historic tour match against The British & Irish Lions at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday night.
Despite being without seven current Wallaby squad members, the Reds team still boasts plenty of international strikepower with nine capped Wallabies chosen in the starting line-up and a further three on the bench.
Their experience combines for a total of 127 Australian caps while each member of the starting team for Saturday’s blockbuster clash has also commenced a Super Rugby match for the Queensland Reds in 2013.
Of those, five players have featured in all 15 regular season Super Rugby matches to this point, including hooker James Hanson, prop Greg Holmes, backrowers Eddie Quirk and Jake Schatz, and flyhalf Quade Cooper.
Two players are in line to make their Queensland debuts on Saturday with Super Rugby capped prop Jono Owen and Reds College member Sam Denny chosen on the bench.
“Playing against The British & Irish Lions is a once in a career type opportunity, so to be running out in front of a sold-out Suncorp Stadium crowd on Saturday night will be an experience these 23 players will never forget,” Reds Director of Coaching Ewen McKenzie said.
“Our approach was always going to be to field as strong a line-up as possible and I’ve got every confidence in the group we’ve chosen to go out and compete against a very talented Lions squad.”
The Reds will on Saturday be aiming to become the first Australian provincial team to beat The British & Irish Lions in a tour-game since Queensland famously defeated their rivals 15-11 in their opening tour game of 1971.
The loss was only one of two experienced by The British & Irish Lions during their 26-game 1971 tour with the All Blacks also successful in their second Test match as part of a four-game series.
The British & Irish Lions rebounded against Queensland twice in 1989 (19-15 v Queensland and 30-6 v Queensland before also recording two victories in 2001 (42-8 v Queensland and 83-6 v Queensland President’s XV).
“We’ve spoken as a group about the significance of these opportunities and there isn’t a player out there who wouldn’t want to replicate the heroics of the 1971 Queensland side,” McKenzie said.
“History suggests that’s a mammoth challenge, but we’ll go out there on Saturday with plenty of good intentions and with a commitment to giving a strong account of ourselves across the entire 80 minutes.”
Saturday’s match represents a rare opportunity for the Reds to take on the Northern Hemisphere giants, who boast a combination of the best players from England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, during just their third visit to Australia in 24 years, and first since 2001.
The match forms the basis of what will be a nine-game tour for The British & Irish Lions, which also includes three headline Test matches against the Wallabies, beginning with the highly anticipated opening match at the Reds fortress, Suncorp Stadium, on June 22.
Never playing at home, and only assembling for overseas visits, the The British & Irish Lions travel to Australia, New Zealand and South Africa on a rotational basis every four years.
They are one of sport’s most celebrated international teams and are expected to have the support of up to 40,000 travelling fans during their time on Australia shores.
St.George Queensland Reds team to play The British & Irish Lions
1. Ben Daley (58 Reds – 3 Wallabies)
2. James Hanson (50 Reds – 1 Wallabies)
3. Greg Holmes (103 Reds – 13 Wallabies)
4. Adam Wallace-Harrison (32 Reds)
5. Ed O’Donoghue (40 Reds)
6. Eddie Quirk (27 Reds)
7. Beau Robinson (35 Reds – 1 Wallabies)
8. Jake Schatz (47 Reds)
9. Nick Frisby (16 Reds)
10. Quade Cooper (87 Reds – 38 Wallabies)
11. Luke Morahan (44 Reds – 1 Wallabies)
12. Anthony Faingaa (58 Reds – 23 Wallabies)
13. Ben Tapuai (38 Reds – 7 Wallabies)
14. Rod Davies (43 Reds – 1 Wallabies)
15. Ben Lucas (60 Reds)
16. Albert Anae (15 Reds)
17. Sam Denny (Queensland debut)
18. Jono Owen (Queensland debut)
19. Radike Samo (32 Reds – 23 Wallabies)
20. Jarrad Butler (12 Reds)
21. Jono Lance (18 Reds)
22. Mike Harris (30 Reds – 8 Wallabies)
23. Dom Shipperley (33 Reds – 8 Wallabies)
Unavailable for selection: Chris Feauai-Sautia (hamstring), Saia Faingaa (Wallabies), Will Genia (Wallabies), Liam Gill (Wallabies), James Horwill (Wallabies), Digby Ioane (Wallabies), Rob Simmons (Wallabies), James Slipper (Wallabies)