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By ARU Media Unit
Australian sevens representative Jono Lance is set to be a surprise starter at fullback as the Queensland Reds aim to keep the Western Force guessing right until kick-off on Saturday night.
Reds coach Ewen McKenzie has been at his cagey best this week after losing backline trio Digby Ioane, Ben Lucas and Anthony Faingaa to injury in the 22-14 upset to the Brumbies.
Keen to keep his side to himself, McKenzie has closed training sessions to the media and named a 23-man travel squad on Wednesday rather than announce his starting XV and reserves.
He will leave his team naming until match eve but also indicated he was likely to spring some last-minute variations an hour before kick-off at Perth's nib Stadium.
"We've obviously got a few changes so we'll obviously travel there with 23 guys and there's enough for (the Force) to think about," McKenzie said.
"But I don't feel this week that we have to give them any tactical leg-up and let them know what we're doing. They can ponder as long as everyone else."
Lance was one of four new faces named in the table-topping squad and looms as a like-for-like replacement for the no-frills Lucas who wears No.15 but spends his time defending at five-eighth instead of playmaker Quade Cooper.
The son of former Canberra Raiders skipper Dean Lance, the 20-year-old started Wednesday's training session in the front line at No.10 as the Reds likely 15 took to defensive drills.
Lance was the back-up five-eighth to Brumby Matt Toomua in the Australian under-20 team last year and was recruited into Michael O'Connor's national sevens team after leading his University club side to the 2010 Queensland premiership.
His selection would save McKenzie from throwing either Cooper or flyer Luke Morahan into the testing 10-12 channel of defence.
While former Melbourne Storm three-quarter Will Chambers is set to be promoted to replace Faingaa at outside centre, rising winger Dom Shipperley appears likely to stay on the bench with Rod Davies returning from knee surgery.
One of the fastest players in the competition, Davies return on the right wing after seven weeks out is excellent timing with Ioane missing the Force clash due to concussion.
"My rehab's gone well so it's not as though I've been rushed back," said Davies, who backed himself to play 80 minutes if called upon.
"I guess I'll be blowing out there but I'll push through it.
The Reds squad also includes utility back Dallan Murphy, who like Lance has trained in the Reds academy for the past two seasons and can play fullback or five-eighth.
"These guys slot in well because they've been training with us for the last 18 months so it's not like they're coming from nowhere," McKenzie said.
Rising flanker Liam Gill is the only new forward in the squad and is battling with Ben Coridas for a head-to-head showdown with Qantas Wallabies ball scavenger David Pocock.
06 APRIL 2014
05 APRIL 2014
04 APRIL 2014