Livewire Jamie-Jerry Taulagi will make his Super Rugby debut this weekend after being named on the wing for the St.George Queensland Reds’ match against the Western Force.
Taulagi’s addition is one of two changes to the starting side that defeated the Stormers last weekend, with injuries to Dom Shipperley (hip flexor) and Lachie Turner (ankle) forcing a shuffle in the back three.
Taulagi will play on the wing, while Ben Lucas will earn his first start of the season at fullback.
Queensland Premier Grade player Taulagi scored 13 tries from 13 outings for University of Queensland in 2013 before signing a two-year deal with the Reds.
Reds coach Richard Graham said Taulagi’s addition to the side would provide them with another potent attacking threat, while Lucas had offered much as a replacement wing against the Stormers last weekend.
“The Reds have a strong history of giving opportunity to young players,” Graham said.
“JJ has had a solid six months of preparation, understands his role within the team clearly and as such will do a very good job. His appearance against the Rebels in pre-season was a strong indication of what he is capable of.
“Ben has played in a number of positions for the Reds. He offers a broad skill set, is one of the most competitive guys I have come across and loves playing in the red jersey. His experience this weekend will be important in the back field.”
On the replacements bench, two young Queenslanders stand to earn their first caps for Queensland, with former Australian Under-20s Pettowa Paraka and Jonah Placid named to cover prop and outside back respectively.
“Pettowa and Jonah are other examples of our program producing quality young footballers,” Graham said.
“Pettowa has worked extremely hard physically over the past six months and technically has applied himself to his development as a loosehead prop. Jonah is the youngest in our squad, but I was impressed with his time against the Chiefs in pre-season. He gave a really good account of himself, particularly in defence.”
In another milestone this weekend, Rod Davies will play his 50th cap for Queensland.
“Rocket (Rod) has been part of the Reds now since 2009 and after overcoming a significant injury last season, it is great reward for his dedication and discipline. He is a speed machine and I am keen to see him play Saturday night,” Graham said.
“Whilst we expect good performances from our debutants, we also expect that the remainder of the squad will make the necessary adjustments to their own game and assist making the transition easier. We have Greg Holmes, who has played over 100 games for the Reds, along with Horwill, Genia and Cooper in the 90s and plenty more experience within the team.”
The Reds and Force have met 11 times in Super Rugby, with Queensland’s ledger sitting at six wins, four losses and one draw. The two sides met twice in 2013, with the Force winning the first encounter 19-12 in Brisbane and drawing the second 11-11 in Perth.
St.George Queensland Reds team to face Western Force
1. James Slipper
2. James Hanson
3. Greg Holmes
4. Rob Simmons
5. James Horwill (C)
6. Eddie Quirk
7. Beau Robinson
8. Jake Schatz
9. Will Genia (VC)
10. Quade Cooper
11. Jamie-Jerry Taulagi (debut)
12. Mike Harris
13. Ben Tapuai
14. Rod Davies (50th Reds cap)
15. Ben Lucas
16. Albert Anae
17. Pettowa Paraka (potential debut)
18. Jono Owen
19. Ed O’Donoghue
20. Curtis Browning
21. Nick Frisby
22. Anthony Fainga’a
23. Jonah Placid (potential debut)
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