Powerhouse hooker James Hanson will celebrate his milestone 50th game for the St.George Queensland Reds when Queensland Rugby host their second annual Indigenous Round fixture against the Melbourne Rebels at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday night.
The announcement of the Reds team has also coincided with the launch of the Indigenous Round jersey auction with the general public now able to bid for the special edition Indigenous jerseys to be worn by the players against the Rebels on Saturday night.
The number two jersey worn by Hanson is expected to by a popular choice amongst fans with the talented hooker to make his milestone 50th Super Rugby and Queensland appearance, coming in his fourth season with the Reds following his debut in 2010.
Hanson has been a true warrior of the Reds resurgence and has been capped on 48 of Queensland’s past 49 matches since the beginning of the 2011 Super Rugby season, his efforts also recognised on a national level when he debuted for the Wallabies against the All Blacks at Suncorp Stadium last year.
“It’s a huge honour to reach the milestone and to have played a part in the team’s success over the past few seasons has been incredible,” Hanson said.
“We’ve created an environment here where there is a lot of passion every time you pull on a Queensland jersey so to reach the 50-game mark is a real accomplishment for me personally and one that means a lot.”
Hanson is one of five changes made to Queensland’s starting line-up for their final Super Rugby regular season fixture before the June Test window with the Reds enjoying their second scheduled bye next week.
Director of Coaching Ewen McKenzie has re-shaped his backrow for Saturday’s clash with Eddie Quirk and Beau Robinson coming in at blindside and openside flanker respectively.
Injuries to Chris Feauai-Sautia (hamstring) and Jono Lance (neck) will see Ben Tapuai come in at outside centre and playmaker Ben Lucas wear the number 15 jersey for the first time this year.
Following 13 consecutive starts to commence the season, Quirk was used as a late-game closer on the bench against the Stormers at the weekend but has been promoted once again alongside Robinson, who has successfully recovered from an early season ankle injury to have featured in the Reds past four matches.
“We’re blessed here in Queensland with the amount of quality backrowers we have available to us and this depth really allows us the opportunity to use various combinations and implement different strategies relevant to our opposition,” McKenzie said.
“Our players are also aware of the roles expected from them as either ‘starters’ or ‘finishers’ and ultimately the contributions of each, irrespective of when they are on the field, are equally as important as each other.
“Liam has been an absolute standout for us this season and combined with Radike on the bench we feel they’ll make a huge difference as impact players this week while also giving two form players in Eddie and Beau a chance.”
The Reds return to their fortress at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday night where they have only lost at once in seven outings this season – coming against the Western Force in round five.
In their most recent game at Suncorp Stadium the Reds managed to produce one of their best performances of 2013, where a thrilling four-try first half set the scene for a commanding 32-17 triumph over the Sharks.
The Reds have also never lost to the Rebels in their five total Super Rugby matches, including two wins at Suncorp Stadium – 53-3 in 2011 and 11-6 in 2012 – and also a 23-13 victory at AAMI Park in Melbourne earlier this year.
Saturday night also represents Queensland Rugby’s second annual Indigenous Round fixture, which as part of National Reconciliation Week, provides an opportunity to celebrate Indigenous culture and heritage on an international stage.
Queensland Reds team to play the Stormers
1. Greg Holmes
2. James Hanson
3. James Slipper
4. Rob Simmons
5. James Horwill (c)
6. Eddie Quirk
7. Beau Robinson
8. Jake Schatz
9. Will Genia
10. Quade Cooper
11. Luke Morahan
12. Anthony Faingaa
13. Ben Tapuai
14. Rod Davies
15. Ben Lucas
16. Saia Faingaa
17. Ben Daley
18. Ed O’Donoghue
19. Radike Samo
20. Liam Gill
21. Nick Frisby
22. Mike Harris