Rob Simmons has been dropped from the Wallabies side, with the second rower trading the Bledisloe Cup for the Buildcorp NRC this weekend.
It’s a major boost for Queensland Country who have struggled in the first two seasons of the NRC, the side also featuring eight other players with Super Rugby experience.
“It’s great to welcome back Rob Simmons for our first match of the season,” head coach Toutai Kefu said.
“We’ve put together a well-balanced team with a number of experienced heads coupled with some exciting young prospects coming out of club Rugby and the U20s system.
“Sunday’s match presents each player within the squad with the chance to put their hand up for higher honours and we’re looking forward to representing the Queensland Country name on the Gold Coast.”
The side has named the familiar halves pairing of captain James Tuttle and flyhalf Mack Mason who have already represented Queensland and Australian Under-20s sides this year.
The line-up also features Gold Coast locals Ben Daley, Tom Pincus and Mitch Third.
“The Gold Coast as a region has produced some great Rugby talent over the years, including one of our Wallabies representatives James Slipper,” Kefu said.
“The three players we have from the Gold Coast in the squad today are testament to the development opportunities that exist in the region and are great examples of players for the local juniors to look up to," said.
A tight calf has delayed All Black legend Brad Thorn’s return to the field while Saia Fainga’a will also miss their season opener.
Queensland Country open their account at Bond Uni against last year’s runners up UC Vikings on Sunday at 3pm.
Queensland Country side
1. Sef Fa’agase – Reds/University of Queensland/Beaudesert
2. Feleti Kaitu’u – GPS
3. Taniela Tupou – Reds/Brothers
4. Rob Simmons – Reds/Sunnybank/Theodore
5. Izack Rodda – Queensland U20s/Easts
6. Tyrell Barker - Easts
7. Conor Mitchell – University of Queensland/Sunshine Coast
8. Apisai Naiyabo – Norths
9. James Tuttle – Reds/GPS
10. Mack Mason – Queensland U20s/Easts/Mitchell
11. Eto Nabuli – Reds/GPS
12. Duncan Paia’aua – Reds/Norths/Rockhampton
13. Tyrone Lefau - Wests
14. Tom Pincus – University of Queensland/Gold Coast
15. Tom Banks – Reds/University of Queensland Reserves
16. Alex Casey – Souths
17. Ben Daley – Reds/Bond University/Gold Coast
18. Kirwan Sanday – Easts
19. Phil Potgieter – University of Queensland/Toowoomba
20. Lolo Fakaosilea – Reds/Sunnybank/Emerald
21. Issak Fines-Leleiwasa – Sunnybank/Port Douglas
22. Mitch Third – Bond University/Gold Coast
23. Izaia Perese – Reds/Easts