Reds recent recruit Karmichael Hunt will start at flyhalf in his side’s final pre-season clash against the Crusaders at Ballymore this Friday.
Reds head coach Richard Graham has announced a 23-man squad for the fixture, with a further three players to be added. In all Graham has made three changes to the starting team from last week’s match.
Hunt’s move to starting flyhalf has shifted 20-year-old Duncan Paia’aua to the reserves bench, Chris Feauai-Sautia has been brought into a starting wing spot and Jamie-Jerry Taulagi has moved to starting fullback.
Graham said the pre-season match was another opportunity for the side to develop ahead of Round 1 of Super Rugby.
“We took a number of positives out of last week’s match against the Rebels, but the conditions in Cairns really limited what we were able to do in attack,” Graham said.
“I thought our forwards were very good. They set us a strong platform. I’m hoping for more favourable conditions at Ballymore so we can play a more integrated game with all 15 players.
“With a week to go until Super Rugby starts this is an important fixture for us. We are focused on continuing to develop the core aspects of our game and improve with each outing.
“I’m also using these pre-season matches as an opportunity to assess all our options at flyhalf.
“I wouldn’t be preparing the team the best I could if I didn’t look deeply at our flyhalf options for Round 1.
“Karmichael has trained well in the position this week and deserves the chance against the Crusaders.”
The match also sees the return of prop Ben Daley (shoulder) and lock Ed O’Donoghue (ankle) from injury to bolster the forwards on the reserves bench.
Nine players were unavailable for selection, including James O’Connor, who it was hoped would return to play this week but suffered a bout of tonsillitis early in the week and has been unable to train.
Former All Blacks loose forward Adam Thomson is also unavailable, after only arriving from Japan for his first training session late Wednesday afternoon.
Unavailable for selection due to injury are Quade Cooper (collar bone), Dave McDuling (glute), Eddie Quirk (knee), Rob Simmons (shoulder), Ben Tapuai (hamstring), Lachie Turner (shoulder) and Greg Holmes (thumb).
The Reds face the Crusaders at Ballymore Stadium this Friday, 6 February, at 7:30pm AEST. Tickets are still available at www.redsrugby.com.au. Fans outside of Brisbane can watch the game live at www.redsrugby.com.au.
St.George Queensland Reds v Crusaders, Ballymore
1 James Slipper (C)
2 Saia Fainga’a
3 Sam Talakai
4 James Horwill
5 Marco Kotze
6 Curtis Browning
7 Liam Gill
8 Jake Schatz
9 Will Genia
10 Karmichael Hunt (VC)
11 Chris Feauai-Sautia
12 Anthony Fainga’a
13 Samu Kerevi
14 Chris Kuridrani
15 Jamie-Jerry Taulagi
*Two more to be added