St.George Queensland Reds head coach Richard Graham has named his side to take on the Lions at Suncorp Stadium this Friday night, with six players returning from injury for the clash.
Quade Cooper, James O’Connor, Samu Kerevi and Lachie Turner will make their return from injury in the starting backline, while props Greg Holmes and Ben Daley have been named on the reserves bench.
Graham commended the players for their efforts since returning from the bye and said he was pleased to have a selection headache for this week’s match.
“As a consequence of not only availability but also training quality, Greg Holmes, Ben Daley, Quade Cooper, Samu Kerevi, Lachie Turner and James O’Connor have all pushed their way into this week’s 23-man squad,” he said.
“Getting the balance right between selecting first and second game players with the more match hardened was a strong consideration in selection of the team.
“Next week and the week after will add similar pressures, with more players expected to return from injury, but it is what we have been wanting and it’ll only create a more competitive environment that ultimately benefits the team.”
In addition to those changes, Reds Elite Development Squad member Michael Gunn has the potential to make his Super Rugby debut after being named as a reserve flanker.
“Michael stands to be the 12th player to make his debut for the Reds this season and it’s great to be able to continue to demonstrate the strength of our pathways in Queensland,” Graham said.
“A number of players were rewarded with spots in our program at the end of the National Rugby Championship and they have all contributed a lot to the team environment over a number of months.”
Graham said while the team had enjoyed the bye, their energy at training this week showed they were ready to get back on the field.
“The group have benefitted from a short mental and physical break and are looking forward to starting the next run of games beginning with the Lions at Suncorp on Friday evening,” he said.
“Since returning to training last Thursday the squad have had the added benefit of a number of players returning to full training. It has added spark to the training environment and we expect to see the by-product of that through our performance.
“Each player is accountable for their role and if we can bring that together we’ll get the team performance we are wanting. There is little time to build combinations and concern ourselves with the changes we’ve implemented this week. It is about getting out there and performing strongly as a squad.
“I have been impressed by the Lions’ creativity and determination. They did well last week to overcome the Rebels in the last few minutes and we understand the need to be disciplined to our strategy for the entire match.”
The Reds and Lions have met 18 times in the history of professional Super Rugby dating back to 1996 with Queensland claiming 13 wins and one draw. The history of the two sides goes back further than that, however, with this year marking the 20th anniversary of Queensland’s Super 10 win over Transvaal in Johannesburg.
This week Reds prop Ben Daley’s ‘Be Great, Do Good’ campaign features headgear in support of Epilepsy Queensland – which aims to optimise quality of life for people with epilepsy.
‘Be Great, Do Good’ is an initiative by Daley, in which he will support a different charity every week by wearing unique headgear to raise awareness and funds for their cause. Click here for more information.
Reds flanker Beau Robinson is also doing his part for communities in need this week, encouraging fans to bring along a piece of Rugby kit to the game to donate to young Rugby players in Soweto. The ‘Reds and Suporda Kit Drive’ is an initiative by a company Robinson founded – Suporda – to help connect the ‘Global Rugby Community.’ For more information head to www.redsrugby.com.au.
The Reds play the Lions at Suncorp Stadium this Friday 27 March at 7:00pm (local). Tickets are still available at www.redsrugby.com.au. The match will also be broadcast live on Fox Sports.
St.George Queensland Reds team to play Lions at Suncorp Stadium
1. James Slipper (C)
2. James Hanson
3. Sam Talakai
4. James Horwill
5. Dave McDuling
6. Adam Thomson
7. Curtis Browning
8. Jake Schatz
9. Will Genia
10. Quade Cooper
11. James O’Connor
12. Anthony Fainga’a
13. Samu Kerevi
14. Chris Kuridrani
15. Lachie Turner
16. Saia Fainga’a
17. Ben Daley
18. Greg Holmes
19. Marco Kotze
20. Michael Gunn (potential debut)
21. Nick Frisby
22. Ben Tapuai
23. Chris Feauai-Sautia