Queensland Reds head coach Brad Thorn has confirmed his team for Queensland’s crucial Harvey Norman Super Rugby Pacific Round 14 clash against the Highlanders on Friday night.
Thorn has made six changes to the starting XV who fell to the Blues last round, with James O’Connor set to return from concussion at inside-centre in Dunedin.
Fresh from confirming his future at Ballymore, Hunter Paisami will make his return to the Queensland side via the bench after recovering from a knee injury suffered in Round 5.
Thorn said: “It’s an important game on Friday night with both sides pushing towards finals. We expect it to be a quality contest.
“The Highlanders are always a strong opposition with some great players and passionate fans in Dunedin.
“We’re pleased to welcome Hunter back. He’s been working hard and will bring impact as a finisher.”
Peni Ravai, Matt Faessler and Zane Nonggorr return to the starting side in a new-look front row combination, while Angus Blyth and Connor Vest start as locks for the third straight match.
After featuring off the bench in Queensland’s last two fixtures, Harry Wilson is back in the starting side with Seru Uru to provide strike as a finisher.
Wilson will reprise his combination with co-captain Liam Wright and Fraser McReight in the backrow.
Tom Lynagh runs on at flyhalf for the first time since Round 3 and will partner co-captain Tate McDermott as Lawson Creighton drops to the bench.
O’Connor and Josh Flook, who made a successful return from injury last week, start in the centres, while winger Mac Grealy comes into the run-on side for the fifth time in his career with Filipo Daugunu ruled out with a foot injury.
Jock Campbell and Suliasi Vunivalu both retain their positions in the back three as Queensland look to claim victory at Forsyth Barr Stadium for the first time since 2013.
Paisami is set to play his first game since recovering from a medial ligament injury alongside the likes of Sef Fa’agase and Kalani Thomas as a finisher.
Versatile forward Jake Upfield also comes onto the bench with Ryan Smith ruled out with a calf injury.
Highlanders v Queensland Reds, Forsyth Barr Stadium, Friday 26 May, 5:05pm AEST. Watch live on Stan Sport.
- Peni Ravai – Easts – Ratu Kadavulevu School, Fiji
- Matt Faessler – Brothers – Toowoomba Grammar School – USQ Saints
- Zane Nonggorr – Bond University – The Southport School – Gold Coast Eagles
- Angus Blyth – Bond University – The Southport School – Casuarina Beach Rugby Club
- Connor Vest – University of Queensland – Grafton High School – Grafton Junior Rugby Club
- Liam Wright – Easts – Anglican Church Grammar School – Easts
- Fraser McReight – Brothers – Brisbane Grammar School – Albany Creek Brumbies
- Harry Wilson – Brothers – St Joseph’s College Gregory Terrace – Gunnedah Red Devils
- Tate McDermott – University of Queensland – Sunshine Coast Grammar School – Flinders Rugby Club
- Tom Lynagh – University of Queensland – Epsom College – Richmond Rugby Club
- Mac Grealy – University of Queensland – Downlands College – Souths Toowoomba
- James O’Connor – Brothers – St Joseph’s Nudgee College – Brothers
- Josh Flook – Brothers – St Joseph’s Nudgee College – Brothers
- Suliasi Vunivalu – Wests – Saint Kentigern College, Auckland
- Jock Campbell – University of Queensland – The Southport School – Inverell Highlanders
- Richie Asiata – Easts – Anglican Church Grammar School
- Dane Zander – University of Queensland – St Joseph’s Nudgee College – Albany Creek Brumbies
- Sef Fa’agase – Sunnybank – Shailer Park State High School – Beaudesert Warriors
- Jake Upfield – Bond University – The Southport School
- Seru Uru – Wests – Ratu Kadavulevu School, Fiji – Namoli Rugby Club, Fiji
- Kalani Thomas – University of Queensland – Ipswich Grammar School – Souths
- Lawson Creighton – Brothers – Padua College
- Hunter Paisami – Wests – Mangere College, Auckland