St.George Queensland Reds head coach Richard Graham has named his team to face the Cheetahs this Friday, with five changes to the side that lost to the Waratahs.
The match will see four players earn their first start of 2014 Asteron Life Super Rugby season.
Rod Davies will play his first game for the Reds since July 2013, having successfully worked his way back from a knee reconstruction.Davies replaces Lachie Turner on the right wing, who has been ruled out due to a persistent knee injury suffered in a pre-season match against the Chiefs. He is expected to be fit to travel to South Africa.
Also in the backs, Mike Harris has been injected back into the starting lineup, after missing last weekend’s game due to ankle soreness. Harris replaces Anthony Fainga’a at inside centre and will be joined by Chris Feauai-Sautia at outside centre for his first start of the year. Both Fainga’a and Ben Tapuai have been moved to the reserves.
In the forwards, James Hanson will make his first start of the year, replacing Saia Fainga’a in the starting lineup. Prop Ben Daley also comes into the starting side for the first time, taking over from James Slipper at loosehead. Both Fainga’a and Slipper suffered corks on the weekend and have been moved to the reserves.
Graham said the changes were a necessity of the short turnaround and the team’s impending trip to South Africa.
“It is a short turnaround and with only two training opportunities we needed to have 15 players fit to train on Monday and Tuesday,” Graham said.
“Unfortunately we suffered a few knocks in last weekend’s match and have had to make changes to allow us the best possible preparation.
“This match is significant as it is our only home game in the first five rounds. We want to make sure we deliver a strong performance for the more than 30,000 people who have already signed up to be Reds members in 2014 and also ensure we give ourselves the best possible opportunity to win before heading to South Africa.”
This weekend’s match sees the potential for Reds flyhalf Quade Cooper to break the existing points-scoring record for a Reds player in Super Rugby.
The record is currently held by Elton Flatley, who scored 629 points in 86 Super Rugby appearances. Cooper currently sits on 620 points scored in 89 Super Rugby appearances.
This is not to be confused with the overall points-scoring record for Queensland prior to the inception of Super Rugby, which is held by Michael Lynagh on 1,166 points.
The Reds face the Cheetahs at Suncorp Stadium this Friday, 7 March, at 7:40pm (AEDT).