TEAM NEWS: Reds rest Wallabies forwards Rodda, Tupou for Sunwolves clash

Super Rugby
by Emma Greenwood

The Reds will face a critical test against the Sunwolves without key forwards Taniela Tupou and Izack Rodda, with the Wallabies pair rested for the Tokyo Super Rugby clash on Saturday.

Queensland has made five changes to its starting team, with young gun Isaac Lucas shifting to flyhalf to cover for the injured Bryce Hegarty and Hamish Stewart set to wear the no.15.

In what Reds coach Brad Thorn described as a "pre-determined rest match by Rugby Australia" for Rodda and Tupou ahead of the World Cup, Queensland has shuffled its pack significantly.

But Rugby Australia has denied there is a formal policy or rest matches set in stone for players, despite overseas games being favoured for resting players due to the impact of travel.

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika said the agreement had to be "fluid".

"So far that has been working well around the conversations. I have had coaches already ringing up and look to change plans, and we have done that," Cheika said.

"And we are looking at doing that with other ones. It might suit them, because the season changes every week, wins, losses, injuries, how many minutes they play, just so we getting the outcome of the player being in the best possible condition, both for them and for their Super Rugby and also for the Wallabies when the time comes to get ready for the Rugby Championship and then the Bledisloe Cup and then the World Cup."

Taniela Tupou will face a SANZAAR hearing. Photo: Getty Images

Ruan Smith will partner twin brother JP in the front row, with Angus Scott-Young coming off the bench into the back row and Lukhan Salakaia-Loto shifting to lock to fill Rodda's shoes.

Alex Mafi will also make his first run-on start of the year at hooker with Brandon Paenga-Amosa dropping to the bench.

Neither Rodda nor Tupou travelled to Japan this week.

Rodda, in particular, has had a torrid opening month to the season, with the death of his father the day before the Reds' first game and his funeral earlier this week.

The changes are another hurdle for the 0-3 Reds who face a Sunwolves side that has played above expectation this season.

But defence coach Peter Ryan said the Reds lost little with the moves given the versatility of players such as Salakaia-Loto.

"I just think those guys, with what they offer, we lose nothing," Ryan said.

"It's important that's the case, the guys that are coming into the starting side certainly do have the ability to step into those roles and those guys could potentially set themselves up for a Wallabies jersey."

 

Thorn was confident Lucas would rise to the challenge of playing at no.10, with Hegarty recovering from a rib injury.

"Isaac has played some quality Rugby in his three appearances this season," Thorn said.

"He's played at 10 for most of his junior footy, so this is nothing new for him.".

The Reds' season is on the line given their 0-3 start and Thorn said a strong start was a must.

"Our performance was disappointing last week in Sydney, we can't afford another slow start," he said.

."The Sunwolves are a side who have improved greatly in the past two years."

Feao Fotuaika will make his Super Rugby debut for the Reds against the Highlanders. Photo: QRU  Media/Brendan Hertel

The Reds have also made several changes to the bench with Feao Fotuaika, Angus Blyth, Teti Tela and Filipo Daugunu all included in the 23.

"Feao returns this week on the bench. It's great to have Blythy, Teti and Filipo back in the side," Thorn said.

"They've been working hard at training and deserve their spot this week."

The Reds take on the Sunwolves in Tokyo on Saturday, March 16, kicking off at 3:15pm AEDT (2:15pm Queensland time), LIVE on FOX SPORTS and via RUGBY.com.au RADIO.

Reds team to face Sunwolves

1. JP Smith – GPS

2. Alex Mafi – Bond University

3. Ruan Smith – GPS

4. Harry Hockings – University of Queensland

5. Lukhan Salakaia-Loto – Souths

6. Angus Scott-Young – University of Queensland

7. Liam Wright – Easts

8. Scott Higginbotham – Wests

9. Moses Sorovi – Wests

10. Isaac Lucas – Sunnybank

11. Sefa Naivalu

12. Duncan Paia’aua – Norths

13. Samu Kerevi (c) – Souths

14. Chris Feauai-Sautia – Souths

15. Hamish Stewart – Bond University

Reserves:

16. Brandon Paenga-Amosa – Sunnybank

17. Harry Hoopert – Brothers

18. Feao Fotuaika – Souths

19. Angus Blyth – Bond University

20. Caleb Timu – Souths

21. Tate McDermott – University of Queensland

22. Teti Tela – Souths

23. Filipo Daugunu – Wests