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Harry Wilson and James O’Connor return to the Reds’ starting XV

By Finn Morton
(Photo by Daniel Pockett/Getty Images)

Wallabies Harry Wilson and James O’Connor will return to the Queensland Reds’ starting side when they take on the Highlanders in a crunch clash on Friday night.


Make no mistake, this is a must-win match for both teams. The Highlanders currently sit just outside the top eight in ninth, while the Reds sit in seventh.

But that it can all change this weekend. Only four competition points separate the trans-Tasman rivals, and including this week there’s only two rounds left in the regular season.

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Finals are practically within reach for the Reds, but they’ll want to get the job done in Dunedin – and they’ve called upon some talented reinforcements.

As well as Wilson and O’Connor, Reds coach Brad Thorn has also named rising star Tom Lynagh in the No. 10 jersey for the first time since round 10. In total, the Reds have made six changes to the first XV.

“It’s an important game on Friday night with both sides pushing towards finals. We expect it to be a quality contest,” Thorn said in a statement.

“The Highlanders are always a strong opposition with some great players and passionate fans in Dunedin.


“We’re pleased to welcome Hunter back. He’s been working hard and will bring impact as a finisher.”

Peni Ravai, Matt Faessler and Zane Nonggorr will pack down in the front row, while Angus Blyth and Connor Vest make up the rest of the tight five.


The Reds have named a familiar looking backrow this week, with Liam Wright and Fraser McReight both named on the flanks – Wilson will start at the back of the scrum.

As for the backline, Wallaby Tate McDermott will look to continue his promising form when he lines up in the halves alongside Tom Lynagh.


The pair will look to get the most out of an exciting backline, which includes another rising star in Mac Grealy on the left wing.

James O’Connor will start at inside centre, and will combine with Josh Flook in the midfield. Wallabies Suliasi Vunivalu and Jock Campbell have also been named in the run-on side.

On the bench, Hunter Paisami has been named for his first match since recovering from a medial ligament injury.

This match is set to get underway at 5.05pm AEST on Friday at Dunedin’s Forsyth Barr Stadium.

Reds team to take on Highlanders

  1. Peni Ravai
  2. Matt Faessler
  3. Zane Nonggorr
  4. Angus Blyth
  5. Connor Vest
  6. Liam Wright
  7. Fraser McReight
  8. Harry Wilson
  9. Tate McDermott
  10. Tom Lynagh
  11. Mac Grealy
  12. James O’Connor
  13. Josh Flook
  14. Suliasi Vunivalu
  15. Jock Campbell


  1. Richie Asiata
  2. Dane Zander
  3. Sef Fa’agase
  4. Jake Upfield
  5. Seru Uru
  6. Kalani Thomas
  7. Lawson Creighton
  8. Hunter Paisami

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Wonton 5 hours ago
Why Scott Robertson may need to ease big names aside for All Blacks' flexibility

One game against Fiji is not enough to show that a player is ready to play the likes of South Africa. Spreading the ball wide too much increases the risk of turnovers and we turned the ball over 20 times against Fiji which is a lot more than what we did in the two England tests. We actually turned the ball over the same amount of times (20) against England in the 2019 semi final which we lost. Fiji didn’t make us pay for those turnovers but other teams will. In the 2nd test against England this year we had 100% success rate on attacking rucks. That’s the first time the AB’s have achieved this since the 2019 opening game of the RWC against South Africa. South Africa won last years RWC and Jesse Kriel did not pass once. The days of the Conrad Smith type centre might be over. Also Conrad Smith debuted in 2004 but he did not become an incumbent until Nonu did also in 2008. As for Rieko Ioane he and Jordie Barrett put in some very strong midfield hits in the 2nd test forcing turnovers several times. Rieko Ioane hasn’t played wing in years. If Proctor is moved to 13 then the best I think Ioane can hope for is an impact player off the bench. He does not have the aerial game of Caleb Clarke or the workrate of Tele’a for 11 and going to be selected over Jordan at 14. However its much too early to replace Rieko with Proctor. Rieko was excellent in the knock out rounds of the RWC. All Proctor has to show on his test CV is a good game against Fiji.

22 Go to comments
Nick 6 hours ago
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Its almost like you read my comment on the other site on sunday morning Nick - you flagged all the same examples! 😝 Frost was motm for mine. That eg in the 56th minute in particular impressed me, nothing but sheer effort and a dupont/smith-like tracking line behind the D. Surely an effort like that from frost marries perfectly with that quote from schmidt at the start of the year about effort and work rate being 70-80% and talent is just the icing on top… What it also showed though was the players not making that effort, in that example he goes past both valetini and ikitau, and in the eg that finished with valetini scoring hunter paisami barely breaks a canter to support the break. And then there was the chase from wright and lancaster for the 2nd georgian try! One blemish - at kickoff I saw frost miss or get bumped off a few tackles and I felt like I saw what has been holding his selection back. I think because he is so big and is trying to get low to tackle, he seems to dip his head and ends up losing his balance or ability to adjust and ends up missing or making a soft hit. I think in the first 2 minutes he misses or makes 2-3 soft tackles, but you could clearly see the work rate and desire! He (the pod) also missed a kick restart or two? Also very happy to see harry wilson back in the fold. What impressed me from him wasn’t all the usual stuff he is known for, but all the other bits that usually let him down. He looked surprisingly good in the air at lineout time, physical at the breakdown, and good in the maul peeling off 3 georgians for one of the maul tries. Id have frost, skelton, wright as my 4-6 with LSL and wilson on the bench. i’m once again unconvinced by tom wirght - he was very good game 1, but game 2-3 he was back to more rocks than diamonds. There is no real other player to usurp him really so he stays in the team for now but I think Joe should put kellaway wherever he serves the team best and wright can be moved around him. Did donno do enough to overtake noah? My gut says no. They clearly had a plan to attack more so he looked better in that regard because he just had more opportunity, but they looked better off tate (who had a v good game also) then they did off donno.

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