Lucas, Mafi to make first starts of season for Reds

Super Rugby
by Sam Phillips

Reds coach Brad Thorn has handed surprise starts to Alex Mafi and Ben Lucas, as Queensland seek their fourth straight win against the Stormers.

Mafi has been rewarded for some impactful spurts off the bench in starting ahead of the impressive Brandon Paenga-Amosa, with Lucas earning the start ahead of both James Tuttle and Tate McDermott.

Tuttle, peculiarly, has been left out of the 23 altogether, with McDermott to support Lucas from the bench.

There is another change in the backs, with Eto Nabuli dropped to the bench, Samu Kerevi sliding across to outside centre and Chris Feauai-Sautia pushed back to the wing to accommodate the return of Duncan Paia'aua at inside centre.Higginbotham won't slot straight back into the Reds starting XV. Photo: Getty ImagesScott Higginbotham hasn't walked straight back into the starting XV, either, set to make his return from a three week suspension off the bench.

That leaves James Slipper with the captain's armband in his 100th cap for Queensland - a milestone Thorn encouraged his side to rise for.

"This is a really special match for James Slipper," Thorn said.

"He has been at Ballymore for more than a decade and the opportunity to play 100 games for your home state is significant.

"The occasion isn’t lost on anyone.Slipper will skipper the Reds in his 100th match for Queensland. Photo: Getty Images"We want to put in a performance we can all be proud of."

On the bench, Higginbotham's inclusion means there is no place for Liam Wright, with Sef Faagase also named in place of Ruan Smith.

"We’ve made some changes to the side again. I’ve said a number of times we’re a work in progress and the benefit of this squad is there’s genuine depth and competition for spots," Thorn said.

"Alex (Mafi) has been doing a good job off the bench and we wanted to give him the chance to start. It’s a similar situation with Ben (Lucas).

"He brought good energy and experience to the field when he came on last week and that will be important this weekend.

"Chris (Feauai-Sautia) and Samu (Kerevi) have been doing a really good job in the centres but this is an opportunity for Duncan (Paia'aua) and a chance to get all three in the backline together.

"The Stormers are a tough team and we’ve had a difficult week with the travel from Argentina, but the guys are clear what their job is this weekend."

TEAM

Reds team to face the Stormers

1. James Slipper (C) – Bond University (100th Queensland/SR cap)

2. Alex Mafi – Bond University

3. Taniela Tupou - Brothers

4. Izack Rodda - Easts

5. Kane Douglas - Norths

6. Angus Scott-Young – University of Queensland

7. Adam Korczyk – University of Queensland

8. Caleb Timu - Souths

9. Ben Lucas - Sunnybank

10. Jono Lance – University of Queensland

11. Chris Feauai-Sautia - Souths

12. Duncan Paia’aua - Norths

13. Samu Kerevi - Souths

14. Filipo Daugunu - Wests

15. Aidan Toua - Easts

Reserves

16. Brandon Paenga-Amosa - Sunnybank

17. JP Smith - GPS

18. Sef Fa’agase – University of Queensland

19. Harry Hockings – University of Queensland

20. Scott Higginbotham - Wests

21. Tate McDermott – University of Queensland

22. Hamish Stewart – Bond University

23. Eto Nabuli - GPS

The Reds face the Stormers in Cape Town on Sunday morning, kicking off at 2:15am AEDT, broadcast LIVE on FOX SPORTS.