Queensland Reds head coach Brad Thorn has confirmed his team for this Saturday’s Super Rugby Pacific season opener against the Melbourne Rebels at Suncorp Stadium.
Tate McDermott will make his captaincy debut alongside Liam Wright, while flyhalf James O’Connor will run on for his 100th Super Rugby game after stints with the Western Force, Melbourne Rebels and Reds.
Queensland Rugby pathway products Spencer Jeans (Bond University) and Lawson Creighton (Brothers) will potentially make their Queensland and Super Rugby debuts off the bench.
Thorn said: “It’s great we’re at home to kick-off the season.
“We can’t wait to be back at Suncorp Stadium playing in front of our Queensland fans on Saturday night.
“Two guys could make their debuts off the bench. Spencer Jeans and Lawson Creighton have both impressed in the pre-season and deserve their selection. James O’Connor will also play his 100th Super Rugby match which is a great achievement for him.
“The Rebels will provide a tough contest. They’ve got an experienced side with plenty of players who have represented their country. We’re looking forward to the challenge ahead,” said Thorn.
After an extended injury layoff, hooker Alex Mafi will make his Super Rugby return alongside Dane Zander and the destructive Taniela Tupou in the frontrow.
Angus Blyth and Lukhan Salakaia-Loto pack down at lock, with skipper Wright, Harry Wilson and Angus Scott-Young making up a strong backrow combination.
Wallabies O’Connor and McDermott start in the halves, with Hamish Stewart and Josh Flook outside them in the midfield.
Wests duo FIlipo Daugunu and Jordan Petaia make up an electric wing pairing, while Jock Campbell brings playmaking nous at fullback.
Off the bench, Josh Nasser also returns after an extended injury break, with Fraser McReight and Hunter Paisami offering strike power as finishers.
After being named to make his debut last season and not getting on the field, Brothers and Padua product Lawson Creighton has the chance to make his first appearance in the Queensland jersey, with the playmaker able to cover a number of positions across the backline including flyhalf and fullback.
Born and bred on the Gold Coast, scrumhalf Jeans has earnt his spot after impressing in the pre-season and starring in his side’s trial matches in the past two weeks.
The curtain raiser of the match will feature a Charity Match between the Vintage Reds XV and Tongan Invitational XV to raise money for the UNICEF Australia Tongan Recovery Appeal. Donate now via: https://tonga.unicef.org.au/t/qru.
Buy tickets to see both matches via: https://bit.ly/3HTfqjs.
Queensland Reds v Melbourne Rebels, Saturday 19 February, Suncorp Stadium, 6:45pm:
Dane Zander – Norths
Alex Mafi – Bond University
Taniela Tupou – Brothers
Angus Blyth – Bond University
Lukhan Salakaia-Loto – Souths
Angus Scott-Young – University of Queensland
Liam Wright (c) – Easts
Harry Wilson – Brothers
Tate McDermott (c) – University of Queensland
James O’Connor – Brothers
Filipo Daugunu – Wests
Hamish Stewart – Brothers
Josh Flook – Brothers
Jordan Petaia – Wests
Jock Campbell – University of Queensland
Josh Nasser – University of Queensland
Harry Hoopert – Brothers
Zane Nonggorr – Bond University
Ryan Smith – Brothers
Fraser McReight – Brothers
Spencer Jeans* – Bond University
Hunter Paisami – Wests
Lawson Creighton* – Brothers
*denotes potential Queensland and Super Rugby debut