St.George Queensland Reds head coach Richard Graham has named a 28-man squad for his side’s first pre-season match of 2015, with 11 players being given the opportunity to don the Queensland jersey for the first time.
Former Queensland Under 16s Rugby rep and recent Broncos Under 20s player Duncan Paia’aua has been given the first opportunity to impress in the flyhalf jersey left vacant by injured star Quade Cooper, while recent recruit Karmichael Hunt returns to the code he played in high school at fullback.
While this isn’t an official, capped Super Rugby game, it will be the first opportunity for Hunt and Paia’aua to wear the Reds jersey, along with props Sam Talakai, Pettowa Paraka and Sef Faagase, locks Adam Korczyk and Marco Kotze, loose forwards Michael Gunn and Lolo Fakaosilea, centre Campbell Magnay and fullback Tom Banks.
It will also be the first time prop James Slipper leads the team out since taking over as captain for the 2015 season.
Graham said the entire squad had been looking forward to the game for some time and would relish the opportunity to play in Far North Queensland.
“The more experienced squad members have fond memories of their previous visits to Cairns,” he said.
“The far north have been great hosts and we are expecting another strong crowd to get behind the team as we begin our 2015 campaign.
“After nine weeks of training, the squad are looking forward to this pre-season match against the Rebels. Having made significant changes to all aspects of our program, this is an important part of our preparations for Round 1 of Super Rugby.
“We have a lot to look forward to. Slipper and Hunt will lead the team for the first time, Duncan will get his first opportunity to wear the Number 10 jersey and 11 players will get to play in the Reds jersey for the first time – A very proud moment for all of them.”
Ten players were unavailable for selection due to injury, including recent recruit James O’Connor, who returned from France with a slight knee complaint, but was expected to be ready in time for the first pre-season match. He will instead be given another week of rest and is expected to play his first game for his new club when they take on the Crusaders at Ballymore next week.
Of the 10 injured players, four are expected to be fit for selection next week for the match against the Crusaders, with more likely to be available for Round 1 of Super Rugby.
“We suffered a number of short-term injuries last week as the intensity around the contact area increased,” Graham said.
“Fortunately of the 10 players sidelined from either surgery in 2014 or recent injury we expect Greg Holmes (shoulder), Ben Daley (shoulder), Ed O’Donoghue (ankle) and James O’Connor back next week.
“This will also be bolstered by the likelihood Adam Thomson will also be available for selection, as his commitments with his Japanese club will be over.”
The other injured players unavailable for selection are: Cooper – suffered a fractured collar bone at training and will be out for 10-12 weeks; Lock Dave McDuling – strained glute during a rucking drill last week; Flanker Eddie Quirk – still recovering from a knee reconstruction; Lock Rob Simmons – returned from Wallabies Spring Tour with a shoulder complaint that will be managed week to week; Centre Ben Tapuai – hamstring injury at training two weeks ago and has not recovered; wing Lachie Turner – injured his shoulder during a contact drill last week and could be back Round 1.
The Reds take on the Rebels at Barlow Park in Cairns this Saturday, 31 January, at 7:30pm AEST. Tickets are still available at www.redsrugby.com.au. Fans outside of Cairns can also watch the game live at www.redsrugby.com.au.
St.George Queensland Reds squad v Rebels, Cairns
Curtis Browning, Sef Faagase, Saia Fainga’a, Lolo Fakaosilea, Liam Gill, Michael Gunn, James Hanson, James Horwill, Adam Korczyk, Marco Kotze, Pettowa Paraka, Beau Robinson, Jake Schatz, James Slipper (C), Sam Talakai.
Tom Banks, Anthony Fainga’a, Chris Feauai-Sautia, Nick Frisby, Scott Gale, Will Genia, Karmichael Hunt (VC), Sam Johnson, Samu Kerevi, Chris Kuridrani, Campbell Magnay, Duncan Paia’aua, Jamie-Jerry Taulagi.