Reds rush their Wallabies back for Crusaders
TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: The Queensland Reds will be bolstered by the return of seven Wallabies squad members in their starting side for Saturday’s showdown against the Crusaders in Brisbane.
Taniela Tupou, Lukhan Salakaia-Loto and Fraser McReight are back in the XV this week, with Liam Wright shifting to blindside flank to accommodate McReight’s return in the No.7 jersey.
It’s set to be a memorable outing for Wright, with the co-captain celebrating his 50th Super Rugby and Queensland cap on Saturday – becoming the fifth Reds player this year to bring up the same milestone.
Harry Wilson has recovered from a concussion suffered in their Super Rugby AU Final victory a fortnight ago, as Hunter Paisami makes his much-anticipated return from injury at outside centre.
Tate McDermott takes his place back at scrumhalf, while fresh off his aerobatic double in Dunedin, Suliasi Vunivalu will start on the right wing.
There are a further six changes to the bench with try-scoring machine Alex Mafi looking to add to his six tries this year after being named in the 23 as Queensland’s replacement hooker.
Feao Fotuaika, Seru Uru, Angus Scott-Young, Kalani Thomas and Filipo Daugunu will all come on as finishers after starting against the Highlanders in Round 1 of the Super Rugby Trans-Tasman competition.
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“We’re looking forward to this week’s challenge against the Crusaders,” Reds coach Brad Thorn said.
“Again, they were this year’s Aotearoa champions and we know it’ll be a tough encounter on Saturday. There’s no better test than playing against the best.
“We’re excited for another big crowd at Suncorp Stadium.
“It was great to see all our fans at the Final.
“Congratulations to Liam Wright who brings up his 50th cap for Queensland.
“He debuted as a 20-year-old back in 2018 after being a part of successful Under-20 and NRC title-winning teams with Queensland and Queensland Country.
“He’s a leader on-and-off the field and has the respect of both the players and staff here. As a group, we congratulate him on this great achievement,” Thorn added.
The Reds will be aiming for a record 12th straight win in Brisbane, after equalling the previous record off 11 set back in 2010/2011 – following their Final victory against the Brumbies two weeks ago.
Saturday’s match is shaping as a blockbuster with the 2021 Super Rugby AU champions hosting the Super Rugby Aotearoa champions, as well as celebrating Queensland’s 10-year anniversary of their 2011 title victory over the Crusaders.
Queensland Reds: 15 Bryce Hegarty, 14 Suliasi Vunivalu, 13 Hunter Paisami, 12 Hamish Stewart, 11 Jock Campbell, 10 James O’Connor (co-captain), 9 Tate McDermott, 8 Harry Wilson, 7 Fraser McReight, 6 Liam Wright (co-captain), 5 Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, 4 Ryan Smith, 3 Taniela Tupou, 2 Brandon Paenga, 1 Dane Zander.
Replacements: 16 Alex Mafi, 17 Harry Hoopert, 18 Feao Fotuaika, 19 Seru Uru, 20 Angus Scott-Young, 21 Kalani Thomas, 22 Isaac Henry, 23 Filipo Daugunu.
Date: Saturday, May 22
Venue: Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
Kick-off: 19.45 (21.45 NZST; 09.45 GMT)
Referee: Mike Fraser
Assistant referees: Damon Murphy, Jordan Way
TMO: Brett Cronan