Anthony Fainga’a will once again lead Country in 2015 (Image: Getty)
Queensland Rugby Union (QRU) today announced the Bond University Queensland Country squad ahead of the 2015 Buildcorp National Rugby Championship (NRC).
The squad features 25 players with Country Queensland backgrounds, including six players who have represented the Queensland Country Heelers at a grassroots level.
A total of 16 players from BLK Queensland Premier Rugby and Queensland country Rugby have been selected, alongside 15 St.George Queensland Reds players with Super Rugby experience, including capped Wallabies Anthony & Saia Fainga’a, James Slipper, Rob Simmons and Chris Feauai-Sautia.
Former Reds and Wallabies Number 8 Radike Samo will also feature in Queensland Country, after returning to Brisbane during the tail end of the Premier Rugby season to play for GPS.
A wider training squad has also been named, to assist with the further development of players within Queensland Rugby’s pathway.
Anthony Fainga’a, who captained the inaugural Queensland Country side last year, will lead the team in 2015. He will be joined by Ed Quirk, James Tuttle, Haydn Hirsimaki and James Turner to form the side’s leadership group.
Current Australian Under-20s head coach Adrian Thompson and Anthony Connellan from Easts Rugby Club have been named as head coach Jason Gilmore’s assistants for the 2015 NRC season.
With training for the Country side beginning this week, Gilmore said he was excited to get underway with preparations for the 2015 season.
“We’ve put together a strong squad heading into the second NRC season,” Gilmore said.
“We have a good balance of Reds players and some of the best talent from Queensland Premier and country Rugby.”
“We also have a total of 20 returning players from the 2014 squad so it will be beneficial to have those existing players to assist with the transition of new players into Queensland Country.
“We do have a number of new faces in the squad this season but they have a lot to offer and the opportunity to represent Country could potentially launch their professional careers.
“The assistant coaches we have named bring a wealth of experience to the side. It is also great to have Anthony Fainga’a returning as captain.
“The NRC also forms an important part of the Reds’ 2016 Super Rugby preparations.”
Anthony Fainga’a said he was looking forward to leading the 2015 Country side.
“While results didn’t always go our way in 2014, we began to create a culture for the Queensland Country side and I’m looking forward to building on that this year,” Anthony Fainga’a said.
“It’s important for us to represent the Rugby community in country Queensland and we’re looking forward to once again playing games in regional areas.”
QRU last year announced it would field two teams in the NRC as an important piece in its talent identification, recruitment and development – as part of its pathway and high-performance strategy.
Now entering its second year, the NRC is a domestic Rugby competition featuring nine teams. It has been designed to give players another link in their development pathway towards Super Rugby and ultimately Wallabies selection. Following the 2014 season, 11 Queensland NRC players received Elite Development Squad contracts with the Reds for the 2015 Super Rugby season.
Queensland Country will play all four of its 2015 home games in regional areas of Queensland, beginning their season against the Melbourne Rising at Bond University on Gold Coast, as well as playing Perth Spirit at Rugby Park in Rockhampton and the University of Canberra Vikings at Sunshine Coast Stadium on the Sunshine Coast.
2015 also marks the 50th Anniversary of the formation of the Queensland Country Rugby Union, and the occasion will be celebrated when Queensland Country host Brisbane City in Toowoomba on Sunday, 6 September.
Tickets are now on sale for all Queensland-based NRC matches at www.redsrugby.com.au. QRU has introduced a new ticket offer for the 2015 Buildcorp National Rugby Championship (NRC), with registered junior club participants under the age of 16 given free entry to any Queensland-based NRC game when accompanied by a paying adult.
Tickets start at just $5 for juniors, $10 for concession and $15 for adults when purchased online prior to the match.