The St.George Queensland Reds have named their side to take on the Blues at Apia Park National Stadium in Samoa this Friday.
The historic clash is the first-ever Super Rugby fixture played in the country and falls in the same week as Samoa’s 55th Anniversary of Independence celebrations.
The Reds have made four changes to the starting side for this match, following their disappointing loss to the Western Force last weekend.
Reds head coach Nick Stiles said: “It was important on the back of our poor performance last week against the Force that we made a change. We know the strength of the New Zealand conference. It’s been a tough year for Australian sides, but hopefully over here in Samoa of all places we can be the first Australian side to beat a New Zealand side in 2017.”
The bulk of the changes come in the forward pack, with Stiles reworking the tight five.
Hooker Andrew Ready returns to the match-day 23 for the first time since Round 8, taking the starting Number 2 jersey in place of regular starter Stephen Moore, who has been rested for this match.
Tighthead prop Taniela Tupou has earned his second start of the year, replacing Sam Talakai, who shifts to the bench.
Izack Rodda is back in the starting side for the first time since Round 5 to form an exciting lock partnership with Lukhan Tui, who was yesterday announced as a potential debutant in the Wallabies squad for the June Test series.
Stiles has opted for just the one change in the starting backline, with James Tuttle picked ahead of Nick Frisby, who returns to the reserves.
“It’s good to be able to welcome Andrew Ready back and give him an opportunity to demonstrate the hard work he’s been doing in the background. That will be big for him and for the team,” Stiles said.
“Taniela has been developing nicely and I thought the game he started against the Hurricanes was his best performance of the season, so we wanted to give him another crack at the starting jersey against the Blues.
“Izack Rodda has been picked ahead of Rob Simmons. He’ll form a good partnership with Lukhan Tui. They’re two young locks, but very exciting prospects for the future of Queensland Rugby. They’re both physical, abrasive players and that will be important.
“James Tuttle has brought plenty of energy to the team this year and he’s having his best season in the Reds jersey, so his form warrants selection in the starting side.”
The Reds bench has a six-two split, with loose forward Caleb Timu in line to make his Queensland and Super Rugby debut. Kane Douglas also returns to the match-day 23 for the first time since Round 8 as the reserve lock.
“We challenged Kane to get back to his best and he’s worked hard to get there and for Caleb Timu to make his debut in Samoa would be a reward for his diligence over the last year to get back from injury and learn the game after joining us from the Broncos,” Stiles said.
In all, the Reds match-day 23 features six players with Samoan heritage.
The St.George Queensland Reds play the Blues in Apia, Samoa this Friday 2 June at 5:15 pm AEST. The match will also be broadcast live on Fox Sports.
St.George Queensland Reds side to play Blues in Samoa
Friday 2 June, 5:15 pm AEST, Apia Park National Stadium – Apia, Samoa
1. Sef Fa’agase – University of Queensland (Samoan heritage)
2. Andrew Ready – Easts
3. Taniela Tupou – Brothers
4. Izack Rodda – Easts
5. Lukhan Tui – Souths (Samoan heritage)
6. Hendrik Tui – Norths (Samoan heritage)
7. George Smith – Brothers
8. Scott Higginbotham – Wests
9. James Tuttle – GPS
10. Quade Cooper – Souths
11. Eto Nabuli – GPS
12. Duncan Paia’aua – Norths (Samoan heritage)
13. Samu Kerevi (C) – Souths
14. Chris Kuridrani – GPS
15. Karmichael Hunt – Norths (Samoan heritage)
16. Alex Mafi – Bond University
17. Kirwan Sanday – Easts
18. Sam Talakai – Brothers
19. Kane Douglas – Norths
20. Adam Korczyk – University of Queensland
21. Caleb Timu – Souths (Samoan heritage)
22. Nick Frisby – GPS
23. Jake McIntyre – Sunnybank