Paia'aua assured Toulon move won't hurt Reds selection chances

Super Rugby
by Emma Greenwood

Classy centre Duncan Paia'aua has been told his move to France at the end of the Super Rugby season will be no impediment to his selection for the Reds.

Paia'aua is locked in a battle for a starting centre berth with Chris Feauai-Sautia for the opening game of the season against the Highlanders in Dunedin on Friday, with Queensland coach Brad Thorn to announce his line-up on Wednesday.

The Reds look to be leaning towards playing twin battering rams, naming captain Samu Kerevi at inside centre, with Feauai-Sautia in the No.13.

But Paia'aua is hoping his ballplaying skills and speed could convince coaching staff to push Kerevi to outside centre and hand him a starting spot.

Regardless, he will be given every chance at the selection table regardless of this being his final season at the club.

"I've had a chat with Thorny and told him I've signed (with Toulon) for after the Super Rugby season but he's indicated he's still going to put me in contention," Paia'aua said.

"He just wants to play his best side every week and if I'm there or not, it's up to him.

"Obviously I'm pushing for that 12 jersey. It just depends on what Thorny wants - if he wants two big runners in the centres or if he wants another playmaker outside of Hamish (Stewart) or whoever the 10 is.

"I'll just put my head down and keep working hard and hopefully I can get the call."

Paia'aua was among the Reds' best in their opening trial against the Rebels in Ballarat earlier this month before Kerevi returned in the No.12 for the final pre-season clash against the Chiefs at Ballymore, with Paia'aua replacing him off the bench.

But he has received no indication yet of how things will pan out for the season opener.

"Not at this stage. I've been jumping in whenever me and Samu have been subbing in and out," he said.

Kerevi believes he has the ballplaying skills needed at inside centre.

Paia'aua gives away 17kg to his captain but he believes that he can provide a point of difference while remaining the hard-running centre Thorn seems to crave.

"Obviously Chris and Samu are really big bodies and they're really good ball carriers but I wouldn't shy away from running hard lines either," he said.

Duncan Paia'aua debuted against the Rebels in the 2015 preseason. Photo: Getty Images"I may look a bit smaller but I think I can run hard lines as well and on the back of that, I can ball-play as well.

"I'll back my skill set and hopefully get the call."

After making his Reds debut against the Brumbies in 2015, Paia'aua will leave Ballymore at the end of the season, having signed a three-year deal with Toulon.

And he is aware what he's in for after flamboyant owner Mourad Boudjellal's tirade against former All Black Julian Savea.

"I guess when people sign there they think the money's good and everything but on the back of that you've got to perform as well," Paia'aua said.

"I'm not saying that Julian hasn't performed but I think there's a lot of pressure on players like that who go over there and are expected to perform and I'm no different.

"Hopefully I can perform when I get there as well."

For now though, his focus is firmly on the Reds and helping them push towards becoming a Super Rugby finals outfit again.

It's something the 23-year-old Rockhampton product honestly believes can happen this year.

"That's what our whole season motto has been about this year, is believing," he said.

"Dont worry about anything else or what's happened in the past.

"If we have the belief within each other, I think we can really have a good season this year."