Queensland Reds coach Brad Thorn thinks his side’s free swing in Christchurch on Friday will suit returning No.10 Isaac Lucas.

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The 21-year-old started the Super Rugby season in the halves before James O’Connor’s shift to five-eighth bumped him to the bench.

But O’Connor (ankle) will miss the clash with the Crusaders – winners of the last three Super titles – meaning Lucas will go head-to-head with incumbent All Blacks No.10 Richie Mo’unga.

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“It’s great; this will be a wonderful experience for him against the current All Black No.10,” said Thorn, who anticipates O’Connor to miss just this weekend’s game.

“This is all part of the package and there’s no pressure on Isaac there, he can just go out there and express himself.

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“He’s a natural footballer … (when he’s got the ball) there’s always something possibly on.”

Coming off a bye, the Crusaders sit atop the New Zealand conference and are as short as $1.03 with some betting agents to inflict a fifth loss from six games this season on the Reds.

Coach Scott Robertson has opted to rest in-form fullback David Havili and outside centre Braydon Ennor for the first time this season.

But captain Scott Barrett is back from a knee injury, All Blacks gun Jack Goodhue moves to No.13 and incumbent All Blacks No.10 Mo’unga will pull the strings.

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The Reds haven’t won in Christchurch since 1999, but the Crusaders’ current 33-match winning streak at home shows the Queenslanders aren’t alone in their struggles.

“It’s been going on since the late 90s,” Thorn said of his former side’s incredible winning history.

“Last three years the champions … they have that team-first mindset, good work ethic and (play) smart, intelligent rugby.”

The Reds have also rotated Wallabies second rower Izack Rodda out, while Scott Malolua is a chance to take over the kicking duties from Jock Campbell after being named to start at halfback ahead of the in-form Tate McDermott.

– AAP

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