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Reds star missing in vital clash for Australian conference title

Samu Kerevi. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images for SUNWOLVES)

Reds head coach Brad Thorn has left skipper Samu Kerevi out of his side to take on the Chiefs in Hamilton on Friday in a match which could have significant implications on the outcome of the Australian Super Rugby conference.

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Thorn’s decision to abide by the Wallabies’ World Cup resting policy means the 25-test Kerevi, who has been integral in the Queensland club’s resurgence this year, will not play until the Reds’ clash against the Jaguares in Brisbane next week.

Without Kerevi, the 13th-placed Reds will have to overcome the 14th-placed Chiefs, who have underperformed thus far this season, as they look to push for an unlikely run to the play-offs.

Sitting in fourth spot in the Australia conference, they trail the conference-leading Brumbies by just six points, and with the Rebels and Waratahs jammed in between, every point will be vital for all four Australian-based clubs.

The loss of Kerevi will do the Queenslanders no favours, but Thorn has still mustered a close-to-full-strength side.

Taking Kerevi’s place at second-five is Duncan Paia’aua, whose move from the bench into the starting lineup frees up space for Teti Tela.

Wallabies lock Izack Rodda will take on the leadership duties in Kerevi’s absence, which is one of three positional changes in the starting lineup made by Thorn in the wake of the Reds’ 32-40 defeat at the hands of the Waratahs at Suncorp Stadium last week.

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Joining Paia’aua in the midfield is Seb Wileman, who will make his Super Rugby debut after replacing the injured Chris Feauai-Sautia, while Harry Hoopert will start at loosehead prop in place of JP Smith, which allows Feao Fotuaika to return from a broken thumb to come into the match day squad on the bench.

Flanker Adam Korczyk, halfback Scott Maloua and outside back Liam McNamara are the other changes on the bench, with the latter two also in line to make their Super Rugby debuts.

“Scott Maloua is another player who has come through the Club Rugby system and the NRC with Queensland Country. He joined us in the pre-season as injury cover. He has been working hard at training and deserves his spot in the 23,” Thorn said.

“Liam McNamara has also joined us as injury cover. He’s come through the same Queensland U20s squad as the majority of this squad and knows a lot of the guys. He’s been with Australian Sevens side and provides good depth to our outside backs.

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“As a group, we congratulate Seb, Scott and Liam on their selection this week.”

Reds: 1. Harry Hoopert, 2. Alex Mafi, 3. Taniela Tupou, 4. Izack Rodda, 5. Angus Blyth, 6. Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, 7. Liam Wright, 8. Angus Scott-Young, 9. Tate McDermott, 10. Bryce Hegarty, 11. Sefa Naivalu, 12. Duncan Paia’aua, 13. Seb Wileman, 14. Jock Campbell, 15. Matt McGahan

Reserves: 16. Brandon Paenga-Amosa, 17. Feao Fotuaika, 18. Ruan Smith, 19. Adam Korczyk, 20. Scott Higginbotham, 21. Scott Malolua, 22. Teti Tela, 23. Liam McNamara

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