The Queensland Reds have confirmed their 27-man touring squad ahead of next month’s inaugural Queensland-Saitama Shield match against the Saitama Panasonic Wild Knights in Japan.
Following the completion of the Queensland Rugby Challenger Series, seven players from outside of the Reds program – Connor Anderson, Phransis Sula-Siaosi, Jake Upfield, Sam Wallis, Joey Fittock, Ben Navosailagi and Louis Werchon – have been selected to tour and potentially earn a Queensland cap.
After captaining the Reds Development XV, Angus Blyth will lead the side against the reigning League One premiers, while Wallabies duo Harry Wilson and Suliasi Vunivalu will also travel to face the Robbie Deans coached outfit.
Reds head coach Brad Thorn said: “The Challenger Series was a great success.
“We got to see Queensland’s best club talent back playing rep footy. There needs to be more of it in the future.
“Congratulations to the men who will tour Japan. It’s a special opportunity to earn a cap for their state.
“Seven club players will travel with us, we’re excited to reward them and see what they bring. I’d like to acknowledge Ethan Dobbins and Paddy James, who would have toured if not for injury.
“We’re pleased to have Harry and Suli back. Harry won the Pilecki Medal as our best player this season and Suli is a proven match-winner – he brings x-factor. They’ll be great for our team.”
Reds General Manager of Professional Rugby Sam Cordingley said: “We’re looking forward to travelling to Japan to play our partner the Saitama Panasonic Wild Knights.
“After the Challenger Series, it’s another valuable opportunity for our group to develop as a team on the field, something that has been lacking in recent years.
“It’s a unique chance for a number of club players to represent Queensland on tour.
“The StoreLocal Hospital Challenge Cup is our greatest talent provider, and we feel a great connection to the competition, so it’s pleasing to see these players get an opportunity.
“We would like to thank the Australia Japan Foundation and Trade and Investment Queensland for their significant support of this tour."
18 players with Super Rugby experience have been named to tour, including Richie Asiata, Ryan Smith, Seru Uru, Isaac Henry and Vunivalu who have recently returned from Australia A duties in Japan.
The tour will also feature a warm-up clash against Japan’s third-best team, the Kubota Spears Funabashi Tokyo Bay, before Queensland face the Saitama Panasonic Wild Knights on Friday 4 November at Kumagaya Rugby Stadium.
Thanks to the support of the Australia Japan Foundation and Trade and Investment Queensland, the Wild Knights will travel to Queensland in 2023 to play the corresponding fixture for the Saitama-Queensland Shield.
The Saitama Prefecture, located in the Greater Tokyo Area, shares a sister state relationship with Queensland, with the Reds last touring the country to face a Saitama XV in 1991. The match featured the likes of Tim Horan, Jason Little, John Eales and Paul Carozza, while the Wild Knights’ General Manager Hitoshi Iijima also played.
Queensland Reds Japan Tour
Queensland Reds v Saitama Panasonic Wild Knights – Friday November 4th, Kumagaya Rugby Stadium, Saitama
Queensland Reds Japan Tour Squad
- Connor Anderson – Wests
- Richie Asiata – Easts
- George Blake – Bond University
- Wilson Blyth – Bond University
- Angus Blyth – Bond University
- Sef Fa’agase – University of Queensland
- Matt Faessler – Brothers
- Zane Nonggorr – Bond University
- Ryan Smith – Brothers
- Phransis Sula-Siaosi – Souths
- Jake Upfield – Bond University
- Seru Uru – Wests
- Sam Wallis – University of Queensland
- Harry Wilson – Brothers
- Dane Zander – University of Queensland
- Floyd Aubrey – GPS
- Lawson Creighton – Brothers
- Joey Fittock – Bond University
- Josh Flook – Brothers
- Mac Grealy – University of Queensland
- Isaac Henry – Wests
- Spencer Jeans – Bond University
- Tom Lynagh – University of Queensland
- Ben Navosailagi – Wests
- Kalani Thomas – University of Queensland
- Suliasi Vunivalu – Wests
- Louis Werchon – Brothers