The Queensland Reds have named their matchday 23 for Friday’s historic match against the Saitama Panasonic Wild Knights at Kumagaya Rugby Stadium in Japan.
In a balanced team of youth and experience – up to eight players could make their Reds debut with the pre-season tour fixture recognised as an official capped-match for Queensland.
Six-of-the-eight uncapped players are Queensland Club Rugby products with 2022 Hospital Cup title-winning Wests duo Connor Anderson and Ben Navosailagi named in the starting XV at blindside flanker and on the left wing respectively.
On the bench, Souths prop Phransis Sula-Siaosi, Easts lock Taine Roiri, Brothers scrumhalf Louis Werchon and Bond University winger Joey Fittock could all potentially make their Queensland debuts, so too for contracted Reds duo Wilson Blyth and Floyd Aubrey after being selected as finishers.
Overlooked for the Spring Tour, Wallabies pairing Harry Wilson and Suliasi Vunivalu will both start while Angus Blyth will skipper the side following three victories as captain as part of Queensland Rugby's recent Challenger Series and Japan Tour.
Reds head coach Brad Thorn said: "We're grateful to be in Japan and thank the Saitama Panasonic Wild Knights for hosting us here at their world-class facility.
"We've got a great relationship with Panasonic. We've got a sister-state partnership with them and a good connection through Robbie Deans and their GM Hitoshi Iijima.
"We'll have up to eight Queensland debutants on Friday night – six of those are club rugby guys which is an awesome achievement. They've all worked hard and we congratulate them on their selection.
"The NRC was great, but there's been a void for three years. To have rep footy for club players in the Challenger Series and now this Japan Tour is crucial for the growth of rugby.
"The Panasonic match will make it four games we didn't have originally, so this is a great initiative by the Reds and Panasonic to make it happen.
"The Wild Knights are a complete side. They've got quality players and are well coached by Robbie Deans. They'll be playing to win and so will we. It should be a good contest and we're looking forward to seeing all the fans here in Kumagaya on Friday night," said Thorn.
The two teams will play for the inaugural Saitama-Queensland Shield in recognition of their ground-breaking partnership established in 2020.
Friday night's match will be live-streamed to Australia – further details on how to watch will be communicated closer to the match.
Queensland Reds v Saitama Panasonic Wild Knights – Kumagaya Rugby Stadium, Saitama on November 4 at 8:00pm AEST
- Sef Fa’agase – University of Queensland
- Matt Faessler – Brothers
- Zane Nonggorr – Bond University
- Ryan Smith – Brothers
- Angus Blyth – Bond University ©
- Connor Anderson* – Wests
- Sam Wallis – University of Queensland
- Harry Wilson – Brothers
- Kalani Thomas – University of Queensland
- Lawson Creighton – University of Queensland
- Ben Navosailagi* – Wests
- Isaac Henry – Wests
- Josh Flook – Brothers
- Suliasi Vunivalu – Wests
- Mac Grealy – University of Queensland
- Richie Asiata – Easts
- Dane Zander – University of Queensland
- Phransis Sula-Siaosi** – Souths
- Wilson Blyth** – Bond University
- Taine Roiri** – Easts
- Louis Werchon** – Brothers
- Joey Fittock** – Bond University
- Floyd Aubrey** – GPS
*Denotes Queensland debut
**Denotes potential Queensland debut