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James O'Connor ruled out of Crusaders clash as Reds make three changes to starting side

By Online Editors
(Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

Wallabies star James O’Connor has been ruled out of the Queensland Reds side to face the Crusaders in Christchurch on Friday.

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The 29-year-old utility back was forced from the field with an ankle injury during the Reds’ 33-23 defeat to the Sharks in Brisbane last week.

That injury has prevented O’Connor from making his sixth consecutive start for Queensland this season, paving the way for promising youngster Isaac Lucas to take the reins at No. 10 at Orangetheory Stadium.

Continue reading below…

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Lucas’ promotion to the starting side is one of three alterations head coach Brad Thorn has made to his team as they look to pick up their second win of the campaign.

In-form halfback Tate McDermott has been demoted to the bench in place of one-test Samoan international Scott Malolua, who will partner with Lucas in a new-look halves combination.

The only other change comes in the forward pack, as 21-test Wallabies loose forward Lukhan Salakaia-Loto returns to the team after being benched for the Sharks clash.

He takes the place of experienced lock Izack Rodda, who drops out of the match day squad.

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Utility back Bryce Hegarty joins McDermott as one of four new faces on the pine in the wake of Lucas’ rise to the starting side after the 27-year-old was omitted from the team that fell short to the Sharks at Suncorp Stadium.

Elsewhere, second rower Angus Blyth fills the void left by Salakaia-Loto in the No. 19 jersey, while Dane Zander replaces Harry Hoopert as the side’s reserve loosehead prop.

“We’re looking forward to this week’s challenge in Christchurch,” Thorn, a two-time Super Rugby-winning former Crusader himself, said in a statement on Wednesday.

“The Crusaders are a tough opposition – especially at home. We respect what they’ve done over the years. There’s no better test than playing the best. We’re up for the contest on Friday night.”

Queensland Reds side to face the Crusaders

1 – JP Smith
2 – Alex Mafi
3 – Taniela Tupou
4 – Lukhan Salakaia-Loto
5 – Harry Hockings
6 – Angus Scott-Young
7 – Liam Wright (c)
8 – Harry Wilson
9 – Scott Malolua
10 – Isaac Lucas
11 – Henry Speight
12 – Hamish Stewart
13 – Hunter Paisami
14 – Chris Feauai-Sautia
15 – Jock Campbell

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Reserves

16 – Ed Craig
17 – Dane Zander
18 – Josh Nasser
19 – Angus Blyth
20 – Fraser McReight
21 – Tate McDermott
22 – Bryce Hegarty
23 – Filipo Daugunu

In other news:

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finn 8 hours ago
Massive red flag raised by weakened Champions Cup teams – Andy Goode

I wonder if the problem of some teams not taking it that seriously would be helped by making performance in the champions cup count towards qualification and/or seeding in the following year’s competition. Eg. top four seeds would be winners of the URC, premiership, and top 14, plus best performing team in the previous year’s CC who have not otherwise qualified. Doing that the seedings for this years comp. would have been: Tier one: Saracens - Munster - Toulouse - la Rochelle Tier two: Sale - Stormers - Racing 92 - Leinster Tier three: Leicester - Connacht - Bordeaux - Exeter Tier four: Northampton - Ulster - Lyon - Sharks Tier five: Harlequins - Glasgow - Stade Francais - Edinburgh Tier six: Bath - Bulls - Toulon - Ospreys The competition would probably work better with fewer teams, so I’d probably favour only the first 4 tiers being invited, and then going straight to a quarter final without a round of 16. On the one hand this would possibly incentivise teams to take the champions cup seriously, and on the other it would mean that the latter stages would be more likely to involve teams that have demonstrated a willingness to take the competition seriously. The main differences between my proposed system and the actual draw is that mine would give la Rochelle a fairly easy ride to the quarters, and would either exclude the Bulls entirely or would give then an insurmountably difficult draw. As it happened Exeter got quite an easy pool draw but that was a bit of a fluke. My system would reward Exeter for being one of the teams that demonstrably devote a lot of attention to the CC by guaranteeing them a good draw.

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