A pair of rookie first fives will line up on Canberra soil on Friday night to kick off the Australian conference for Super Rugby 2020.
For the Brumbies, Junior Wallabies playmaker Lolesio gets first chance in the number 10 jersey on debut, while NRL convert Solomone Kata will also make his first Super Rugby appearance, starting on the wing after a strong performance in the side’s trial match against the Melbourne Rebels in Albury last week.
Returning Canberra-local, Harry Lloyd and young flyhalf, Bayley Kuenzle are in line to make their Super Rugby debuts off the bench with former Rebels and Waratahs backrower, Will Miller and home-again lock, Caderyn Neville selected to represent the Brumbies jersey for the first time.
Towering duo Murray Douglas and Darcy Swain will get the first opportunity to partner in the second row with Allan Alaalatoa to lead the side out at GIO Stadium after being unveiled as the side’s captain last week.
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“It’s always a hard decision to pick just 23 players out of a squad that’s been working so hard during preseason,” said coach Dan McKellar.
“I’m really pleased for the guys that are going to make their debuts on Friday night. Noah and Harry have both come through the Brumbies Academy, while Bayley has been waiting for an opportunity for some time and Sol has been really impressive since arriving in Canberra.
“As a team we’re really looking forward to opening our season in front of our home supporters, our region has been going through a tough time and we have an opportunity to make them smile on Friday night at GIO Stadium.”
Meanwhile, the Reds have opted for former Under 20 superstar Lucas as their playmaker.
Lucas earned eight caps for Queensland in 2019 before helping Australia progress through to the final of the World Rugby Under 20 Championship. With Bryce Hegarty spending most of the season at 10, Lucas was employed primarily in the outside backs.
Following standout performances in Queensland Premier Rugby that led to selection with Brisbane City in the National Rugby Championship (NRC) last year, Queensland pathway trio Dane Zander, Seru Uru and Hunter Paisami could potentially also make their Queensland debuts after being named on the bench.
The Reds will be bolstered up-front with the return of props JP Smith and Feao Fotuaika from injury, while Izack Rodda will also make his comeback following routine off-season ankle surgery post the Rugby World Cup.
It hasn't taken the ex-Wallaby long to secure alternative employment following last week's TV setback, and other star names could follow him to America in 2021 https://t.co/p5YF4odhqV
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) January 28, 2020
Liam Wright will lead the team in his first Queensland-capped match as captain and will have the support of Rodda, Speight and Hegarty as part of the Reds leadership group this season.
Coach Brad Thorn said: “We’re excited for the season to start. We have the Brumbies first-up and we look forward to a tough contest.
“Dalby and Gladstone had us for two trial games which were important hit-outs leading into the season.
“Five guys could make their Queensland debuts on Friday night which is an awesome thing to recognise. They’ve worked hard during the pre-season and deserve their selection.”
Brumbies: Tom Banks, Solomone Kata, Tevita Kuridrani, Irae Simone, Tom Wright, Noah Lolesio, Joe Powell, Pete Samu, Tom Cusack, Rob Valetini, Murray Douglas, Darcy Swain, Allan Alaalatoa (c), Folau Fainga’a, Scott Sio. Reserves: Connal McInerney, Harry Lloyd, James Slipper, Caderyn Neville, Will Miller, Ryan Lonergan, Bayley Kuenzle, Andy Muirhead.
Reds: Bryce Hegarty, Jock Campbell, Jordan Petaia, James O’Connor, Henry Speight, Isaac Lucas, Tate McDermott, Harry Wilson, Liam Wright, Angus Scott-Young, Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, Angus Blyth, Brandon Paenga-Amosa, JP Smith. Reserves: Alex Mafi, Dane Zander, Feao Fotuaika, Izack Rodda, Seru Uru, Moses Sorovi, Hamish Stewart, Hunter Paisami.
– with Brumbies Rugby and Reds Rugby
New Reds wing Henry Speight is looking forward to a change of scenery for 2020:
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