Brad Thorn has dropped five-eighth Hamish Stewart to the bench as Queensland seek to end a nine-game losing streak against New South Wales on Saturday.
Waratahs recruit Bryce Hegarty has overcome rib soreness to replace Stewart at flyhalf, while Duncan Paia’aua comes in for the injured Jordan Petaia in the centres.
A prospect from one of Australia’s most established rugby families, Isaac Lucas will get his first Super Rugby start at fullback after the 20-year-old’s impressive cameos so far this season. Lucas, the fourth brother in his family to play rugby professionally, has been one of Queensland’s best rugby talents with plenty of X-factor.
The former Australian schoolboy impressed earlier in the pre-season in a short cameo against the Chiefs, showing the kind of game-breaking talent that has been missing in Australian Rugby recently. Along with the injured Jordan Petaia, Lucas could be just what the Reds need to spark their attack.
Stewart became a regular starter in Thorn’s first year as coach in 2018, with his brave efforts in defence and big boot his major attributes. But the 21-year-old has been shunted to the bench for Lucas in a re-shuffle. Bryce Hegarty has been taking some of the playmaking duties from Stewart while playing fullback last Saturday.
JP Smith and Scott Higginbotham have both earned starts after making late impacts off the bench last weekend against the Crusaders.
“Bryce is a great communicator within the group,” Thorn said.
“He has showed good composure, confidence and direction when he’s slotted into that 10 position the last two games.
“In our two matches against the Highlanders and Crusaders, he’s (Lucas) come on and hasn’t looked out of place.”
Queensland will arrive at the SCG with confidence, but frustration after two tight losses to open their season.
“No matter what code or sport, Queensland v New South Wales are always good games,” Thorn said.
“It’s a historic rivalry and I know our men will wear the maroon jersey with pride.”
Reds: Isaac Lucas, Chris Feauai-Sautia, Samu Kerevi (capt), Duncan Paia’aua, Sefa Naivalu, Bryce Hegarty, Moses Sorovi, Scott Higginbotham, Liam Wright, Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, Harry Hockings, Izack Rodda, Taniela Tupou, Brandon Paenga-Amosa, JP Smith. Res: Alex Mafi, Harry Hoopert, Ruan Smith, Caleb Timu, Angus Scott-Young, Tate McDermott, Hamish Stewart, Jack Hardy.
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