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Departing Wallaby handed Reds captaincy after injury crisis

By AAP
Lukhan Salakaia-Loto.(Photo by John Davidson/Photosport)

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A trio of injuries have paved the way for the Queensland Reds captaincy debut of Lukhan Salakaia-Loto to cap a rollercoaster week in which the Wallabies forward confirmed his exit from Australian rugby.

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The lock or backrower has accepted a deal that will see him leave Ballymore after seven years for Northampton next season.

But in a sign of his standing, he’s been thrust into the captaincy for Friday’s clash in Perth against the in-form Western Force.

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The Aotearoa Rugby Pod look back on the second round of Super Rugby Pacific.
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The Aotearoa Rugby Pod look back on the second round of Super Rugby Pacific.

Co-captains Tate McDermott (ankle) and Liam Wright (shoulder) will both miss the game, while fellow backrower Angus Scott-Young (knee) is also facing about a month on the sideline.

Hooker Alex Mafi is also out injured, with Josh Nasser to start for the first time and coach Brad Thorn rolling the dice with game-breaking prop Taniela Tupou to play from the bench.

Hunter Paisami (knee) will play his first game of the season for the unbeaten Reds, while James O’Connor will call the shots at No 10.

Josh Flook moves to the wing to accommodate Wallaby Paisami’s return, while test winger Filipo Daugunu has been left out of the squad.

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The Force will be steered by former Brumbies pair Issak Fines-Leleiwasa and in-form No 10 Reesjan Pasitoa.

It will be Fines-Leleiwasa’s first start for the Force, ahead of veteran halfback Ian Prior in their long-awaited return to HBF Park.

Will Harrison will return from injury via the bench for the NSW Waratahs, who will challenge the unbeaten Brumbies in Canberra on Saturday.

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Halfback Nic White and hooker Folau Fainga’a return to the starting side for the Brumbies while Jahrome Brown will start at openside flanker.

Lock Josh Canham and No 13 Lukas Ripley will make their Super Rugby debuts for the Melbourne Rebels, who are missing 14 players through injury or suspension.

James Hanson replaces injured hooker Jordan Uelese to face the Fijian Drua on Friday, while impressive Tamati Ioane will make the first start of his Super Rugby career, named at No 8 with captain Michael Wells shifting to blindside flanker.

Joe Powell and Matt To’omua will combine for a second consecutive match with Carter Gordon recalled to start at fullback in place of the suspended Reece Hodge.

After two weeks of Covid-19 postponements, Moana Pasifika will make their Super Rugby Pacific debut across the ditch.

Wallabies great Sekope Kepu will captain the side and former Test playmaker Christian Leali’ifano has been named on the bench.

– Murray Wenzel

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