Davies to front up against the Chiefs
Reds wing Rod Davies will earn his first starting opportunity for 2013 in the only change made to the team's starting line-up for Saturday's round nine Super Rugby blockbuster against the Chiefs in Hamilton.
After battling a hamstring injury during the early stages of the year, Davies was impressive in his first opportunity of the season in a dynamic cameo off the bench in the Reds bonus-point victory over the Highlanders almost a fortnight ago.
Davies is one of two changes made to the matchday 22, from the 34-33 victory in Dunedin – with fellow wing Chris Feauai-Sautia recovering from a thigh injury to earn his place on the bench.
The Reds enter Saturday's contest buoyed by a strong start to their 2013 campaign, winning five of their seven matches to sit on 26 competition points and only three points behind the competition-leading Chiefs.
In recent times, the Reds have performed admirably against the 2012 Super Rugby champions, with Director of Coaching Ewen McKenzie's men successful in their past three competition fixtures against the Chiefs – including two victories in Hamilton in 2011 (19-11) and in 2010 (23-18).
Their most recent victory came in Brisbane last year when the Reds produced a remarkable second half comeback to turnaround a 8-22 deficit into an entertaining 42-27 win.
In total, the Reds have won 10 of their past 11 Super Rugby matches against New Zealand opposition with their only loss during that time frame coming in a narrow 15-11 encounter against the Crusaders in Christchurch in 2012.
"Historically we have a proud record against New Zealand opponents while this group is also one that prides itself on their performances against the best teams and on the big stage," McKenzie said.
"The Chiefs have been outstanding in their title defence but we'll go into the match with the right mindset and excited about our prospects and the challenge of playing in Hamilton."
McKenzie said the Reds bye week had proven beneficial to their preparations against the Chiefs.
"We used our week off as an opportunity to give players the chance to rest and to take time off from Rugby to ensure they are prepared for what will be a difficult eight-game stretch going into the June Test break," he said.
"Everyone seems to have responded well to the time off and the players returned to training on Tuesday energised and excited about the challenges that are ahead.
"For this week, we also have a guy like Rod Davies bringing in even more enthusiasm and energy into the group and you know just how eager he is to play well with the opportunity he has been given.
"With Davies coming in we are actually reforming the same backline we had in the 2011 Super Rugby Final with the exception of Digby, who is only one more week away from returning."
Captain James Horwill will make his third consecutive start of 2013 and will be joined by Rob Simmons in the second-row; props Greg Holmes and James Slipper and hooker James Hanson in the front row; and Eddie Quirk, Liam Gill and Jake Schatz in the back row.
Playmakers Will Genia and Quade Cooper will call the shots for a backline featuring Ben Tapuai and Anthony Faingaa in the centres, Davies and Dom Shipperley on the wings; and Jono Lance at fullback.
McKenzie has opted for a traditional four forwards, three backs split on the bench with hooker Albert Anae, prop Ben Daley, lock Ed O'Donoghue, flanker Jarrad Butler, scrumhalf Ben Lucas and outside backs Feauai-Sautia and Aidan Toua.
Following Saturday's game, the Reds return to Brisbane for a blockbuster Australian Conference derby against the Brumbies on Saturday, April 20.
The Reds are expecting Digby Ioane (knee), Radike Samo (knee), Saia Faingaa (neck), Luke Morahan (ribs) and Nick Frisby (ankle) to be available for selection for the Brumbies encounter.
Queensland Reds: 15 Jono Lance, 14 Dom Shipperley, 13 Anthony Faingaa, 12 Ben Tapuai, 11 Rod Davies, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia, 8 Jake Schatz, 7 Liam Gill, 6 Eddie Quirk, 5 James Horwill (captain), 4 Rob Simmons, 3 James Slipper, 2 James Hanson, 1 Greg Holmes.
Replacements: 16 Albert Anae, 17 Ben Daley, 18 Ed O'Donoghue, 19 Jarrad Butler, 20 Ben Lucas, 21 Chris Feauai-Sautia, 22 Aidan Toua.
Date: Saturday, April 13
Venue: Waikato Stadium, Hamilton
Kick-off: 16.35 (18.35 AEST; 04.35 GMT)
Referee: Steve Walsh
Assistant referees: Nick Briant, Sheldon Eden-Whaitiri
TMO: Ben Skeen