Queensland have recalled tough-tackling centre Anthony Fainga’a and young gun Chris Feauai-Sautia to their injury-hit backline for Friday’s Super Rugby clash with the Brumbies.
Fainga’a gets his first start of the year with inside centre Mike Harris battling Achilles tendon soreness ahead of the crucial Rod Macqueen Cup match at Suncorp Stadium.
Reds coach Richard Graham says he won’t know until game-day whether Harris will play, surprisingly bracketing him on the bench with uncapped lock/flanker Dave McDuling.
The return of Wallabies three-quarter Feauai-Sautia on the wing is the biggest boost for Queensland, who have lost three of their last four matches to be in 11th place.
The Reds have missed the 20-year-old’s tackle-shedding ability in his time out with a hamstring strain.
He replaces rookie Jamie-Jerry Taulagi, who returns to the bench, while the under-rated Ben Lucas remains at fullback after Lachie Turner was booked in for ankle surgery.
“Chris has worked hard during the past four weeks and looks in really good shape,” Graham said. “His explosive running will be an asset for us.”
“We are fortunate to have Ant Fainga’a as a straight replacement for Harris. He brings a lot of experience to the midfield.”
Fainga’a’s twin Saia returns to the bench for his long-awaited 100th Super match after a shoulder injury ruled him out of the last two games.
“The chance to share the milestone with his brother will mean a lot to the both of them,” Graham said.
The Reds have stuck with their worker-bee back-row amid calls for the bigger Curtis Browning to start at flanker against the second-placed Brumbies.
Graham conceded the Reds needed to be better at closing out games after failing to put the Lions and Western Force away in costly losses.
“We have lost two of our last three matches by three points, so controlling the back end of the game will be important,” he said.
Reds: Ben Lucas, Rod Davies, Ben Tapuai, Anthony Fainga’a, Chris Feauai-Satutia, Quade Cooper, Will Genia; Jake Schatz, Beau Robinson, Eddie Quirk, James Horwill (capt), Rob Simmons, Greg Holmes, James Hanson, James Slipper. Res: Saia Fainga’a, Albert Anae, Jono Owen, Ed O’Donoghue, Curtis Browning, Nick Frisby, Mike Harris/Dave McDuling, Jamie-Jerry Taulagi.