Could The Reds Win Their First Against Waratahs In Twelve Attempts?

Super Rugby AU kicks off on Friday and a Reds vs Waratahs blockbuster is a fitting way to usher in a new era for the game. The Reds have lost 11 games in a row against the Waratahs in Super Rugby will look for a fresh start to history while the new laws being trialled could make the game more exciting with the ball in play for longer periods.

Wallabies coach Dave Rennie will be watching this match as a Wallabies audition and a battle for a gold jersey, both this year and in years to come.

Queensland probably have a slight edge when it comes to the development of their young crop, many of whom now have two or more seasons of Super Rugby under their belt.

The Waratahs will be even younger than they were in Super Rugby earlier this year, several injuries compounding the absence of vice-captain, Kurtley Beale.

There will be mouth-watering match-ups that could have Test implications, James O’Connor vs Will Harrison, Taniela Tupou vs Angus Bell and Michael Hooper vs Liam Wright to name a few while the Reds halves James O’Connor and Tate McDermott loom as potential game-breakers.

The incumbent Wallabies captain Michael Hooper should be wary of Queensland skipper Liam Wright, who will be keen to mark his name down on the Wallabies selectors notepads. 

Reds: Last year's Junior Wallabies captain Fraser McReight earned his first start for Queensland. His inclusion at No.7 means captain Liam Wright will shift to No.6. Harry Wilson has overcome a torn MCL and will pack down at number-eight in what shapes as a formidable backrow combination.

Angus Blyth will partner Lukhan Salakaia-Loto at lock, while Brandon Paenga-Amosa has recovered from an ankle injury and takes his spot in the frontrow alongside Harry Hoopert and Taniela Tupou.

Bryce Hegarty has been named at fullback, as Jock Campbell shifts to the wing.

Lock Tuaina Taii Tualima and outside-back Josh Flook both could make their Super Rugby and Queensland debuts.

Following a strong showing in last year’s National Rugby Championship (NRC) with Brisbane City, Tualima was handed a Queensland contract ahead of the 2020 Super Rugby season and has been rewarded for his continual hard work this year.

A Reds Academy product, Flook captained the Australian Schools and U18s side last year and played in the Hospital Challenge Cup Grand Final for Brothers in his rookie year of Queensland Premier Rugby, before being brought into the Reds squad during the recent COVID-19 suspension period.

“We’re pumped to be back playing Rugby again this week,” said Thorn.

“We’ve been in a moment of history, 100 years since the Spanish flu. It’s been a tough four months, but as a group, both players and staff, we’ve worked hard for each other and adapted to the challenges.

“It doesn’t get any better than playing the Waratahs in the season opener. Queensland v New South Wales - there’s plenty of tradition there. It’s a great rivalry and we look forward to continuing that on Friday night.”

“As a club, we continue to bring young talent through our Academy and also through club footy. It’s great to see Tuaina and Josh named in the 23. They’ve worked hard and as a group, we congratulate them on this achievement,” said Thorn.

Queensland Reds: 15. Bryce Hegarty, 14. Jock Campbell, 13. Hunter Paisami, 12. Hamish Stewart, 11. Filipo Daugunu, 10. James O’Connor, 9. Tate McDermott, 8. Harry Wilson, 7. Fraser McReight, 6. Liam Wright, 5. Lukhan Salakaia, 4. Angus Blyth, 3. Taniela Tupou, 2. Brandon Paenga-Amosa, 1. Harry Hoopert. Replacements: 16. Alex Mafi, 17. JP Smith, 18. Josh Nasser, 19. Tuaina Taii Tualima, 20. Angus Scott-Young, 21. Scott Malolua, 22. Chris Feauai-Sautia, 23. Josh Flook.

Waratahs: Injuries have forced coach Rob Penney to go with a youthful side as injuries to Lalakai Foketi, Karmichael Hunt, Jake Gordon and Tom Robertson were confirmed earlier this week.

Ned Hanigan will play his first game of 2020 after ongoing concussion issues, teaming up with captain Rob Simmons. The loosies have rising star Will Harris at 8 for his first start and Lachie Swinton at blindside flank with veteran Michael Hooper at openside.

Junior Wallaby Joey Walton and Alex Newsome will combine in a new midfield pairing and Jack Maddocks has been picked at 15. Five of the Waratahs' seven starting backs have played 11 games or fewer of Super Rugby. New vice-captain Alex Newsome (48) and Jack Maddocks (41) bump the average number of games in the back line up to 16.2.

Hooker Tom Horton coming into the reserves and Tiaan Tauakipulu, Tepai Moeroa also set to debut for the Waratahs.

Waratahs: 15. Jack Maddocks, 14. James Ramm, 13. Alex Newsome (Vc), 12. Joey Walton, 11. Mark Nawaqanitawase, 10. Will Harrison, 9. Mitch Short, 8. Will Harris, 7. Michael Hooper, 6. Lachlan Swinton, 5. Rob Simmons (C), 4. Ned Hanigan, 3. Harry Johnson-Holmes, 2. Robbie Abel, 1. Angus Bell. Replacements: 16. Tom Horton, 17. Tetera Faulkner, 18. Tiaan Tauakipulu, 19. Tom Staniforth, 20. Jack Dempsey, 21. Michael Mcdonald, 22. Ben Donaldson, 23. Tepai Moeroa.