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Ex-Junior Wallabies star handed second start with Queensland Reds

By Finn Morton
Harry McLaughlin-Phillips of the Reds looks to pass during the round one Super Rugby Pacific match between Queensland Reds and NSW Waratahs at Suncorp Stadium, on February 24, 2024, in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

Rising star Harry McLaughlin-Phillips will wear the Reds’ No. 10 jersey for the second time in Super Rugby Pacific when the Queenslanders take on Moana Pasifika in Whangarei, New Zealand.

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McLaughlin-Phillips, who was impressive with the Junior Wallabies last year, comes in as one of four changes to the Reds’ matchday 23 ahead of their first match of the season across the ditch.

Wallabies wing Suliasi Vunivalu comes back into the starting side on the right wing, while former All Black Alex Hodgman and lock Angus Blyth have both been named on the bench.

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For the Queensland Reds, who are coming off defeats to the Western Force and ACT Brumbies, winning with McLaughlin-Phillips in the starting role this season is crucial.

“Harry deserves a start and we freshen up Tom (Lynagh). We are fortunate with our stocks at No.10 but also aware of the player management needed over a long season,” Reds head coach Les Kiss said in a statement.

“Both are getting invaluable experience and playing plenty of minutes. Lawson (Creighton) has positive time under his belt as well and gives us versatility on the bench.

“Suli returns on the wing. Again, we have given consideration to player management with Mac, who has played a lot of minutes and will give us his flair in the back end of the game.”

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Fijian international Peni Ravai starts at loosehead prop again this week, with try-scoring machine Matt Faessler and Samoa international Jeffery Toomaga-Allen making up the front row.

Seru Uru, Ryan Smith, co-captain Liam Wright, Fraser McReight and Harry Wilson are the rest of the forwards in the starting side.

Co-captain Tate McDermott will link up with McLaughlin-Phillips in the halves, while the Reds have gone with the exciting midfield combination of Hunter Paisami and Josh Flook.

Wallabies Jordan Petaia and Suliasi Vunivalu will take their place on a wing each, while another Australian international in Jock Campbell will line up out the back.

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“I see an opposition team with enormous experience through Tana Umaga, Stephen Jones and Tom Coventry on the coaching staff and the likes of Christian Lealiifano, Julian Savea and Sekope Kepu in the playing squad,” Kiss explained.

“This is a real challenge and an exciting one against a physical team with a lot of strike power.”

“The return of Alex is a massive bonus. He worked really hard on his rehab and his local experience in NZ conditions is an asset to the squad,” Kiss added.

“Angus Blyth has got his match time up after a long rehab. He played Premier Rugby for Bond University last weekend and he gives us fresh energy at lock. Cormac Daly has gained unbelievable experience as a regular contributor for us at lock and he will freshen up in this week off.”

This match at Whangarei’s Semenoff Stadium will get underway at 5.05 pm AEST on Friday.

Reds team to take on Moana Pasifika

  1. Peni Ravai
  2. Matt Faessler
  3. Jeffery Toomaga-Allen
  4. Seru Uru
  5. Ryan Smith
  6. Liam Wright (cc)
  7. Fraser McReight
  8. Harry Wilson
  9. Tate McDermott (cc)
  10. Harry McLaughlin-Phillips
  11. Jordan Petaia
  12. Hunter Paisami
  13. Josh Flook
  14. Suliasi Vunivalu
  15. Jock Campbell

Replacements:

  1. Josh Nasser
  2. Alex Hodgman
  3. Zan Nonggorr
  4. Angus Blyth
  5. John Bryant
  6. Kalani Thomas
  7. Lawson Creighton
  8. Mac Grealy
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J
Jon 23 hours ago
Why Sam Cane's path to retirement is perfect for him and the All Blacks

> It would be best described as an elegant solution to what was potentially going to be a significant problem for new All Blacks coach Scott Robertson. It is a problem the mad population of New Zealand will have to cope with more and more as All Blacks are able to continue their careers in NZ post RWCs. It will not be a problem for coaches, who are always going to start a campaign with the captain for the next WC in mind. > Cane, despite his warrior spirit, his undoubted commitment to every team he played for and unforgettable heroics against Ireland in last year’s World Cup quarter-final, was never unanimously admired or respected within New Zealand while he was in the role. Neither was McCaw, he was considered far too passive a captain and then out of form until his last world cup where everyone opinions changed, just like they would have if Cane had won the WC. > It was never easy to see where Cane, or even if, he would fit into Robertson’s squad given the new coach will want to be building a new-look team with 2027 in mind. > Cane will win his selections on merit and come the end of the year, he’ll sign off, he hopes, with 100 caps and maybe even, at last, universal public appreciation for what was a special career. No, he won’t. Those returning from Japan have already earned the right to retain their jersey, it’s in their contract. Cane would have been playing against England if he was ready, and found it very hard to keep his place. Perform, and they keep it however. Very easy to see where Cane could have fit, very hard to see how he could have accomplished it choosing this year as his sabbatical instead of 2025, and that’s how it played out (though I assume we now know what when NZR said they were allowing him to move his sabbatical forward and return to NZ next year, they had actually agreed to simply select him for the All Blacks from overseas, without any chance he was going to play in NZ again). With a mammoth season of 15 All Black games they might as well get some value out of his years contract, though even with him being of equal character to Richie, I don’t think they should guarantee him his 100 caps. That’s not what the All Blacks should be about. He absolutely has to play winning football.

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