St.George Queensland Reds head coach Brad Thorn has named his first team for the 2019 Vodafone Super Rugby season ahead of Friday’s match against the Highlanders in Dunedin.
Three players will make their Queensland debut this week in New Zealand, with Souths prop Feao Fotuaika and new recruits Sefa Naivalu and Bryce Hegarty named in Queensland’s starting XV.
While Queensland pathway products – backrower Fraser McReight and utility back Isaac Lucas are potentially set to make their Queensland and Super Rugby debuts after being included on the bench.
The Reds backline boasts 262 games of Super Rugby experience, with five Wallabies selected in the forward pack as well.
After being handed the 2019 captaincy, Samu Kerevi will lead the Reds and will have the support of Izack Rodda as vice-captain.
Reds head coach Brad Thorn said: “The guys are excited to be in Super Rugby mode and are ready to rip in on Friday night.
“As a group, we congratulate all the new men on their Queensland selection.
“Feao is a feel-good story. He was out-of-shape and on the verge of giving up the game. We identified him playing club Rugby last year and his transformation since has been something to admire. Between Brynley Abad (strength and conditioning head coach) and Cameron Liliicrap (scrum coach), Feao has dropped 16 kilos in the pre-season and his scrummaging is now very dominant.
“It’s good to see two young guys like Fraser and Isaac come through the Queensland pathway and progress their Rugby to the next level. They’ve really impressed us during the pre-season and have been rewarded for their hard work.
“Bryce has been rock-solid since joining us. He offers versatility in the backline and is a great communicator, while we’re excited to see Sefa show off his skills for the first time in a maroon jersey. The two of them bring good experience and have been great around the group.
“The Highlanders are a quality team. It’s tough to win in Dunedin, so we’ll need to be at our best and execute what we’ve worked on,” said Thorn.
The Reds open their 2019 Super Rugby account against the Highlanders on Friday night, before hosting the Crusaders at Suncorp Stadium on March 2 in their first home game of the season. Beforehand, the Queensland Women’s XV take on RugbyWA Women. Tickets for the double-header are available to purchase via http://bit.ly/2019RedsTickets
St.George Queensland Reds v Highlanders – Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin on February 22 at 4:35pm AEST
1. Feao Fotuaika** – Souths
2. Brandon Paenga-Amosa – Sunnybank
3. Taniela Tupou – Brothers
4. Izack Rodda (vc) – Easts
5. Lukhan Salakaia-Loto – Souths
6. Angus Scott-Young – University of Queensland
7. Liam Wright – Easts
8. Caleb Timu – Souths
9. Moses Sorovi – Wests
10. Hamish Stewart – Bond University
11. Sefa Naivalu* – TBC
12. Samu Kerevi (c) – Souths
13. Jordan Petaia – Wests
14. Chris Feauai-Sautia – Souths
15. Bryce Hegarty* – GPS
16. Alex Mafi – Bond University
17. Harry Hoopert – Brothers
18. Ruan Smith – GPS
19. Harry Hockings – University of Queensland
20. Fraser McReight*** – Brothers
21. Tate McDermott – University of Queensland
22. Duncan Paia’aua – Norths
23. Isaac Lucas*** – Sunnybank
*Denotes Queensland debut
**Denotes Queensland and Super Rugby debut
***Denotes potential Queensland and Super Rugby debut