Queensland Reds have shown off their backrow depth by elevating highly rated flanker Fraser McReight for his first start when the side launches Super Rugby AU on Friday night.
The Reds were rocked by the departures of Izack Rodda, Harry Hockings and Isaac Lucas due to a pay dispute during the competition’s shut down.
But they will still field a strong side against the NSW Waratahs in the new-look domestic competition, with McReight promoted and Angus Blyth to start at lock in Rodda’s absence.
Captain Liam Wright will shift to blindside flanker to accommodate former Junior Wallabies captain McReight, who had been forced to earn his minutes off the bench before the season stalled.
Bryce Hegarty has been recalled at fullback, with Jock Campbell sent to the wing and James O’Connor reuniting with Tate McDermott in the halves.
Jordan Petaia (shoulder) is still recovering from injury, but Hunter Paisami (knee) has been cleared to resume his damaging ways in the centres alongside Hamish Stewart.
Lock Tuaina Taii Tualima is another benefactor of Rodda and Hockings’ exit, named on the bench and chasing a debut alongside outside-back Josh Flook.
The Reds have lost their last 11 games against the Waratahs, who will arrive without injured Wallabies trio Karmichael Hunt, Jake Gordon and Tom Robertson.
Reds: Bryce Hegarty, Jock Campbell, Hunter Paisami, Hamish Stewart, Filipo Daugunu, James O’Connor, Tate McDermott, Harry Wilson, Fraser McReight, Liam Wright, Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, Angus Blyth, Taniela Tupou, Brandon Paenga-Amosa, Harry Hoopert. Reserves: Alex Mafi, JP Smith, Josh Nasser, Tuaina Taii Tualima, Angus Scott Young, Scott Malolua, Chris Feauai-Sautia, Josh Flook.
– Murray Wentzel
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