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James O'Connor earns No.10 recall for Reds' crucial Fiji trip

By AAP
(Photo by Andy Jackson/Getty Images)

Brad Thorn has turned to James O’Connor with the Queensland Reds’ Super Rugby Pacific season – and his time as coach – on the line in Fiji.

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O’Connor will return to the No.10 to play the Drua on Saturday, pairing with inside centre Hunter Paisami in a new but familiar combination for the high-stakes clash.

Win, and the Reds are assured a finals berth. Lose, and they could slip to as low as 11th in what would be a sorry closure to Thorn’s six seasons in charge.

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And the coach has reverted to a pair of old heads, moving O’Connor from No.12 back to five-eighth and starting fit-again Test centre Paisami in the No.12.

That leaves Tom Lynagh on the bench with fellow half Lawson Creighton, Thorn having sung Lynagh’s praises after a rock solid outing in their gutting 35-30 loss to the Highlanders last week.

Long the Reds’ obvious first-choice five-eighth, O’Connor hasn’t worn the No.10 since a poor outing in a loss to the Crusaders in March.

But injury opened the door for a return in the centres, allowing the out-of-favour, off-contract Wallabies veteran to rediscover his spark.

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“Just a little bit, for this game, experience,” Thorn justified of the selection.

“His combination with Hunter, they’ve played a bit of footy together.

“He gets his opportunity there to play with that combination.

“Tom … he’s been coming along nicely. Those pressure moments, such a calm guy, such a big future in front of him.”

Tate McDermott (concussion) has ticked the boxes required to play but Liam Wright (shoulder) and Connor Vest (neck) remain casualties of the brutal Dunedin fixture.

QUEENSLAND REDS: Peni Ravai, Matt Faessler, Zane Nonggorr, Angus Blyth, Ryan Smith, Seru Uru, Fraser McReight, Harry Wilson, Tate McDermott, James O’Connor, Filipo Daugunu, Hunter Paisami, Josh Flook, Suliasi Vunivalu, Jock Campbell. Bench: Richie Asiata, Dane Zander, Sef Fa’agase, Lopeti Faifua, Jake Upfield, Kalani Thomas, Tom Lynagh, Lawson Creighton.

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