The Bond University Queensland Country side has been named ahead of their Andy Purcell Cup clash against McInnes Wilson Lawyers Brisbane City in Toowoomba this Sunday in Round 3 of the Buildcorp National Rugby Championship (NRC).
The forward pack will be bolstered by the return of internationals Saia Fainga’a (who was on Barbarians duty last week) and Radike Samo. Bond University lock Milton Sikuea has also been promoted to the starting side after featuring in the reserves for the opening two rounds of the competition.
In the backs, 2015 St.George Queensland Reds debutant Campbell Magnay joins the side for the first time this season, starting at inside centre. Magnay featured in seven games for Country in 2014 but missed the opening two rounds of the 2015 competition with injury. Fellow Reds squad member Duncan Paia’aua will start at fullback in place of Jamie-Jerry Taulagi who has been ruled out of the remainder of the NRC due to a knee injury sustained in Round 2.
In the reserves, 18-year-old Brothers prop Taniela Tupou stands a chance to make his much-awaited debut. This will be the highest level of Rugby Tupou has played in Australia since joining the Reds squad ahead of the 2015 season.
University of Queensland outside back and 2015 Reds debutant Tom Banks has also been named on the bench, in what will be his first game of the NRC.
Head coach Jason Gilmore believes the inclusions of a number of key names will be beneficial for the side.
“Having players with Super Rugby and International experience coming back into the squad this week certainly helps bolster our forward pack,” Gilmore said.
“We’ve got a young squad, so to have players of their calibre in the match-day 23 helps provide some guidance for the team on field.
“Having Campbell Magnay return to the backline brings some size and aggression into our inside backs. Magnay obviously had a stellar year in the NRC in 2014 and went on to make his Reds debut earlier this year, so we’re excited to have him back.
“Losing (Jamie-Jerry) Taulagi for the rest of the competition is obviously disappointing but Duncan covered the fullback role for us at short notice last week and went well so he’ll have another opportunity there this week.
“On the bench, to have someone with Taniela’s x-factor is a real bonus. He’ll offer us a great ball running option in the second half while Tom Banks has been training really well in the lead up to his return so I’m sure he’ll look to take his opportunity with both hands.”
With the Andy Purcell Cup on the line, and Queensland Rugby celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Queensland Country Rugby Union, Gilmore said the players had a lot to play.
“This Sunday is really about celebrating Rugby in Country Queensland and the benefits Queensland Country Rugby Union provide for the game in the state.
“Contesting a trophy named after Andy Purcell, who was a Darling Downs stalwart and one of the founding fathers of the Queensland Country Rugby Union, our team will carry a lot of passion and pride into Sunday’s game as we continue to represent the wider Queensland Country Rugby community.”
Queensland Country’s match against Brisbane City in Toowoomba will form the first leg of the 2015 Queensland Country Tour, which will see the side play its remaining NRC home games on the Darling Downs, in Rockhampton and on the Sunshine coast. The tour is proudly supported by the Queensland Government.
City head coach Nick Stiles has made three changes to his starting side for this weekend’s match, taking place at Clive Berghofer Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
Headlining the changes is the return Super Rugby players Liam Gill and Karmichael Hunt, who were both unavailable for selection for last week’s win over Melbourne.
Gill will resume his role as captain, with last week’s debutant Waita Setu moving to the bench.
Hunt also returns to the starting side, in place of Toby White who suffered a hip injury on the weekend.
In addition, Brothers lock Ben Hyne will make his starting debut – taking the place of Corey Thomas, who started in the first two matches of the season.
The bench features two new potential debutants, with University of Queensland scrumhalf Moses Sorovi and Brothers utility back Patrick James both named in the match-day 23 for the first time this season.
Stiles said the changes would add further experience to the side in what will be a difficult match.
“It’s good to be able to welcome back a couple of guys with Super Rugby experience to the side ahead of such an important clash,” Stiles said.
“I was impressed with the way the guys pulled themselves out of a difficult situation last week, they played well in the second half. To be able to add further experienced players to the mix for this weekend’s match will be huge.
“This program is about finding the right balance between Reds and club players, and I’ve been really happy with the contributions from our club players so far. We’re welcoming another two guys to the City ranks this weekend which furthers the depth of experience within our squad. It will be a group effort that gets us through this weekend and through the season.
“Having narrowly lost their first two games, Country will be desperate to do well in front of their home crowd. Our guys just need to make sure they are mentally and physically prepared for that challenge because we know how hard we’re going to have to work to retain the Andy Purcell Cup.”
Last year’s City v Country match saw the Queensland Rugby Union introduce the Andy Purcell Cup – to be contested annually by the two sides during the NRC. City won the inaugural match 29-13 in front of more than 5,000 boisterous fans at Ballymore Stadium.
This year’s event will also feature celebrations marking 50 years since the formation of the Queensland Country Rugby Union.
Tickets start at just $5 for juniors, $10 for concession and $15 for adults when purchased online prior to the match.
The match kicks-off at 3:30pm with tickets available for purchase online at www.redsrugby.com.au and at the gate. The match will also be LIVE streamed at www.foxsports.com.au.
Queensland Country side to play Brisbane City:
1. Haydn Hirsimaki – Sunnybank/Sunshine Coast
2. Saia Fainga’a – Reds/GPS
3. Sef Fa’agase – Reds/University of Queensland/Beaudesert
4. Phil Potgieter – University of Queensland/Toowoomba
5. Milton Sikuea** – Bond University/Gold Coast
6. Jack Cornelsen – University of Queensland/Gold Coast
7. Conor Mitchell – University of Queensland/Sunshine Coast
8. Radike Samo - GPS
9. James Tuttle (C) – Reds/GPS
10. Sam Greene – Reds/Brothers
11. Izaia Perese - Easts
12. Campbell Magnay – Reds/GPS
13. Chris Feauai-Sautia – Reds/Souths
14. Tom Pincus – University of Queensland/Gold Coast
15. Duncan Paia’aua – Reds/GPS/Rockhampton
16. Alex Mafi – Reds/Bond University/Gold Coast
17. Taniela Tupou* - Reds/Brothers
18. Reuben Leilua – University of Queensland
19. Richie Arnold – Bond University/Gold Coast
20. Maclean Jones – University of Queensland/St George
21. Scott Gale – Reds/University of Queensland
22. Dion Taumata – Bond University/Gold Coast
23. Tom Banks* - Reds/University of Queensland
*Potential NRC and Queensland Country debut
**NRC and Queensland Country starting debut
McInnes Wilson Lawyers Brisbane City side to play Queensland Country:
1. Pettowa Paraka – Reds/Easts
2. Andrew Ready – Reds/Easts
3. Sam Talakai – Reds/GPS
4. Ben Hyne - Brothers
5. Cadeyrn Neville – Reds/Manly
6. Luke Beauchamp - Brothers
7. Liam Gill (C) – Reds/Sunnybank
8. Scott Higginbotham – NEC Green Rockets
9. Nick Frisby – Reds/GPS
10. Jake McIntyre – Reds/Sunnybank
11. Alex Gibbon – Southern Districts
12. Samu Kerevi – Reds/GPS
13. Karmichael Hunt – Reds/Brothers
14. Chris Kuridrani – Reds/GPS
15. Junior Laloifi - Sunnybank
16. Matt Mafi - Brothers
17. Markus Vanzati – Souths
18. Feao Fotuaika - Sunnybank
19. James Moore - Easts
20. Waita Setu – GPS
21. Moses Sorovi – University of Queensland (potential debut)
22. Henry Taefu - Sunnybank
23. Patrick James – Brothers (potential debut)