Fresh after being crowned the 2021 Super Rugby AU champions, the Queensland Reds have shifted their focus to their Kiwi counterparts, as they kickstart the Trans-Tasman Super Rugby season against the Highlanders in Dunedin.
Reds head coach Brad Thorn has rewarded his team for their hard work this year with scrumhalf Kalani Thomas handed his starting debut and Isaac Henry potentially set to make his Super Rugby debut in Friday’s match at Forsyth Barr Stadium.
After coming-on as finishers in last Saturday’s decider at Suncorp Stadium, Dane Zander, Liam Wright, Seru Uru and Filipo Daugunu have all been promoted into the XV this week.
Angus Blyth will partner Ryan Smith as Queensland’s starting secondrow pairing, while the versatile Feao Fotuaika will shift from loosehead to tighthead prop.
Wallabies trio Taniela Tupou, Lukhan Salakaia-Loto and Grand Final man-of-the match Fraser McReight are set to bring plenty of firepower off the bench, so too Suliasi Vunivalu who has overcome a hamstring injury.
Frontrow duo Josh Nasser and Harry Hoopert, plus scrumhalf Moses Sorovi have all been re-called into the 23 in a true testament to the quality of depth in the Queensland squad.
After hoisting the Super Rugby AU trophy in tandem, Wright and James O’Connor have been named co-captains as they look to lead the side to further success in 2021.
“The Trans-Tasman is finally here and everyone’s looking forward to it,” said Thorn.
“Super Rugby Aotearoa has been of a really high standard and it’s a great opportunity to go up against the Kiwi teams again.
“We’ve got a short turnaround and the Highlanders will be a tough opponent down in Dunedin.
“Winning the title was a great reward for everyone involved – the players, the staff and also our Queensland supporters across this great state. It was great to get that trophy, but we’ve put it in the cabinet and we’re focussing on our next job.”
The Super Rugby AU champions return home next week when they host Super Rugby Aotearoa champions the Crusaders at Suncorp Stadium. The match will also see the Reds celebrate their 10-year anniversary of their 2011 title victory against the Canterbury club.
Queensland Reds v Highlanders – Forsyth Bar Stadium, Dunedin
1. Dane Zander – Norths
2. Brandon Paenga-Amosa – Sunnybank
3. Feao Fotuaika – Sunnybank
4. Ryan Smith – Brothers
5. Angus Blyth – Bond University
6. Angus Scott-Young – University of Queensland
7. Liam Wright – Easts (co-captain)
8. Seru Uru – Easts
9. Kalani Thomas* – University of Queensland
10. James O’Connor – Brothers (co-captain)
11. Jock Campbell – University of Queensland
12. Hamish Stewart – Brothers
13. Josh Flook – Brothers
14. Filipo Daugunu – Wests
15. Bryce Hegarty – GPS
16. Josh Nasser – University of Queensland
17. Harry Hoopert – Brothers
18. Taniela Tupou – Brothers
19. Lukhan Salakaia-Loto – Souths
20. Fraser McReight – Brothers
21. Moses Sorovi – Wests
22. Isaac Henry** – Wests
23. Suliasi Vunivalu – Wests
*Denotes Super Rugby/Queensland starting debut
**Denotes potential Super Rugby/Queensland debut