The Queensland Reds will be bolstered by the return of seven Wallabies squad members in their starting side for Saturday’s showdown against the Crusaders at Suncorp Stadium.
Taniela Tupou, Lukhan Salakaia-Loto and Fraser McReight are back in the XV this week, with Liam Wright shifting to blindside flanker to accommodate McReight’s return in the number-seven jersey.
It’s set to be a memorable night for Wright with the co-captain celebrating his 50th Super Rugby and Queensland cap on Saturday night becoming the fifth Reds player this year to bring up the same milestone.
Harry Wilson has recovered from a concussion suffered in their Super Rugby AU Grand Final victory a fortnight ago, as Hunter Paisami makes his much-anticipated return from injury at outside centre.
Tate McDermott takes his place back at scrumhalf, while fresh off his aerobatic double in Dunedin, Suliasi Vunivalu will start on the right wing.
There are a further six changes to the bench with try-scoring machine Alex Mafi looking to add to his six-tries this year after being named in the 23 as Queensland’s replacement hooker.
Feao Fotuaika, Seru Uru, Angus Scott-Young, Kalani Thomas and Filipo Daugunu will all come-on as finishers after starting against the Highlanders in Round 1 of the Super Rugby Trans-Tasman competition.
Reds head coach Brad Thorn said: “We’re looking forward to this week’s challenge against the Crusaders.
“Again, they were this year’s Aotearoa champions and we know it’ll be a tough encounter on Saturday night. There’s no better test than playing against the best.
“We’re excited for another big crowd at Suncorp Stadium. It was great to see all our fans at the Grand Final.
“Congratulations to Liam Wright who brings up his 50th cap for Queensland. He debuted as a 20-year-old back in 2018 after being a part of successful U20s and NRC titles with Queensland and Queensland Country. He’s a leader on-and-off the field and has the respect of both the players and staff here. As a group, we congratulate him on this great achievement,” said Thorn.
The Reds will be aiming for a record twelfth-straight win at Suncorp Stadium after equalling the previous record off 11 set back in 2010/2011 following their Grand Final victory against the Brumbies two weeks ago.
Queensland Reds v Crusaders – Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane on 22 May at 7:45pm AEST
1. Dane Zander – Norths
2. Brandon Paenga-Amosa – Sunnybank
3. Taniela Tupou – Brothers
4. Ryan Smith – Brothers
5. Lukhan Salakaia-Loto – Souths
6. Liam Wright – Easts (co-captain)
7. Fraser McReight – Brothers
8. Harry Wilson – Brothers
9. Tate McDermott – University of Queensland
10. James O’Connor – Brothers (co-captain)
11. Jock Campbell – University of Queensland
12. Hamish Stewart – Brothers
13. Hunter Paisami – Wests
14. Suliasi Vunivalu – Wests
15. Bryce Hegarty – GPS
16. Alex Mafi – Bond University
17. Harry Hoopert – Brothers
18. Feao Fotuaika – Sunnybank
19. Seru Uru – Easts
20. Angus Scott-Young – University of Queensland
21. Kalani Thomas – University of Queensland
22. Isaac Henry – Wests
23. Filipo Daugunu – Wests