St.George Queensland Reds head coach Richard Graham has named his side to take on the Western Force at Suncorp Stadium this Saturday, with four personnel changes to the side which lost to the Brumbies in the opening round of Asteron Life Super Rugby.
Two of the changes are to the starting side, with former All Blacks flanker Adam Thomson and Wallabies utility James O’Connor named to make their Reds debut.
Thomson will start at blindside flanker, with Curtis Browning shifting to the bench. O’Connor has been named starting flyhalf, with Karmichael Hunt returning to fullback.
On the bench, former Australian Schoolboys and Under-20s representative Tom Murday replaces Ed O’Donoghue at lock. Murday was part of the Reds Wider Training Squad in 2013 before heading to New Zealand to join ITM Cup side Northland. He was a member of the Auckland Blues Super Rugby Extended Player Squad last year before returning home to train with the Reds. Should he take the field this weekend it will be his Super Rugby debut.
The other change to the reserves sees utility Sam Johnson come in for Duncan Paia’aua, who has been ruled out following a head knock in last week’s match. Johnson, a bruising centre for Brisbane club GPS, made his Super Rugby debut for the Reds last season and is a member of the club’s Elite Development Squad.
Graham said his side was looking forward to returning to Suncorp Stadium for the first time since July 2014.
“It is great to be back in Brisbane and playing in front of our own supporters at Suncorp Stadium. Last weekend was a poor performance, the group recognise that and they are determined to deliver a strong performance on Saturday,” he said.
“Our focus this week has been mainly around getting our set piece and defence right. The game usually flows on the back of controlling the collision zone and they start with those two areas.”
Graham added it was good to finally welcome O’Connor and Thomson in to the match-day squad after the pair missed last week’s opening round match.
“I have been talking for a while now about James and Adam making their debuts for the Reds. With some certainty I can finally say after a good week’s preparation that both of the boys will start this weekend,” he said.
“Adam has only been with the group now two weeks but has fitted in superbly. As a leader and a footballer he has been able to contribute positively to what we are doing.
“James will wear the Number 10 jersey. He has spent the last two weeks training fully with the team and looks settled. He is motivated to help the team around the field and allow the side to find their attacking framework. Karmichael and he will split the role on some first phase and phase attack.
“We have handed out a few debuts in the early rounds. Whilst James and Adam have played Test Rugby, both are enthused by the privilege that comes with wearing the Reds jersey.
“At the other extreme, Tom Murday is making his Super Rugby debut turning 26 later this year. He has put in a lot of hard yards and travelled across the Tasman (playing ITM) to earn this opportunity. The playing group are excited for him and he will enjoy the occasion Saturday night.
“The Force played well last weekend. They were strong defensively and controlled field position well. We know that physicality will play a big part in this match.”
This weekend’s Super Rugby match is the second opportunity for Reds prop Ben Daley to promote his ‘Be Great, Do Good’ campaign, in which he will support a different charity every week by wearing unique headgear to raise awareness and funds for their cause.
This week Daley will wear headgear in support of Live Out Loud – The Nat Cook Foundation, which aims to tackle childhood obesity and increase levels of health and well-being. Click here for more information.
The Reds and Force have met 13 times in Super Rugby history, with six wins each and one draw.
The Reds host the Force at Suncorp Stadium this Saturday, 21 February, at 6:40pm (AEST). Tickets are still available at www.redsrugby.com.au. The match will be broadcast live Fox Sports Channel 204.
[Ultimate guide to the 2015 Queensland Reds]
St.George Queensland Reds side to play Western Force
Suncorp Stadium, Saturday 21 February
1 James Slipper (C)
2 Saia Fainga’a
3 Sam Talakai
4 Marco Kotze
5 James Horwill
6 Adam Thomson (Reds debut)
7 Liam Gill
8 Jake Schatz
9 Will Genia
10 James O’Connor (Reds debut)
11 Lachie Turner
12 Samu Kerevi
13 Chris Feauai-Sautia
14 Chris Kuridrani
15 Karmichael Hunt (VC)
16 James Hanson
17 Ben Daley
18 Sef Faagase
19 Tom Murday (Potential Super Rugby debut)
20 Curtis Browning
21 Nick Frisby
22 Sam Johnson
23 Campbell Magnay