TEAM NEWS: McGahan to make Reds debut

Super Rugby
by Emma Greenwood

They may play different codes but Matt McGahan shares one major trait in common with his father, champion Kiwi rugby league second-rower Hugh McGahan.

Reds defence coach Peter Ryan, who played both codes, grew up watching McGahan senior in action for the Roosters and New Zealand in an era in which the Golden Boot winner was one of the best players in the world.

"I loved (watching) him as a rugby league player, playing for the Roosters," Ryan said.

"His attributes were many but I think the biggest one was his heart.

"He had a massive ticker and I think he's instilled that in Matt as well.

"One's a forward, one's a back, they're completely different positions.

"But I think his ticker and his communication skills, (Hugh) was a leader in terms of 'follow me', where I think Matt's a leader on the field as well as in his communication."

Matt MCGahan works diligently on recovering from a broken leg before being called up for his Reds debut against the Waratahs. Photo: QRU Media/Brendan Hertel

McGahan will make his Reds debut in the interstate derby on Saturday night, playing at fullback in place of the injured Hamish Stewart (shoulder) after the Reds were denied a request to have rising star Isaac Lucas enter Junior Wallabies camp a day late so he could play.

The 26-year-old, who played a handful of Super Rugby games for the Blues, was signed from Japan where he was playing

with Yamaha Jubilo when offered a contract late last year.

But he has spent a frustrating first half of the season on the sidelines working to recover from a broken leg before winning his chance against the Tahs.

While he is a regular flyhalf, McGahan has played at fullback before and will not be out of his depth on Saturday night.

"He's highly skillful, a good communicator and tackles well, so he's got all the components that I need," Ryan said.

"He's a 10 normally but his efforts and his understanding of the position are pretty good from what I've seen so far defensively.

"Him getting to the end of the (defensive) line or communicating what he's doing there are second to none, so I don't think we'll have a problem there."

Matt McGahan in action for Queensland Premier Rugby club Norths. Photo: QRU Media/Brendan Hertel

Ryan, who famously said earlier this season he didn't "give a rat's" about the return of Will Genia and Quade Cooper to Suncorp said he definitely did give the proverbial for the contest against the old enemy.

"I do give a 'rat's' about Queensland and NSW, that's the battle between two states and from my past, I'm certainly a passionate Queenslander, so I certainly do give a 'rat's' about the game.

"And it's a big moment in the game for us this week, it means we can either go on, or we can fall by the wayside and that's completely up to our players and us as staff to make sure that that doesn't take place."

A Maroons Origin player and premiership winner in both the NRL and Super Rugby, Ryan is well acquainted with big occasions.

But he said becoming overly emotional about the contest was counter-productive for a young group and those on debut like McGahan.

"I think we need to take the emotion out of it," he said.

"This younger group come from a different era and they're not in the same mode that I was when I was coming through as a young rugby league and rugby union player.

Reds assistant coach Peter Ryan believes McGahan (pictured tackling) will have no issues in defence. Photo: QRU Media/Brendan Hertel

"If we get them built up too much as a young squad, they've already played the game before they get on the field and are lacking energy and enthusiasm for the game."

But he said the rivalry was still huge.

"Of course. State of Origin in rugby league is the epitome of Queensland-NSW and if I said they didn't have some sort of passion about it, I'd definitely be lying," he said.

"We don't want to take the passion completely out of it but we don't want to burn ourselves out completely before we get there at the weekend.

"But we also want to have it to the point where, when they get out on the field, they want to hit everything in a blue jumper and hurt it.

"I'd certainly be appreciative of that."

In other changes for the Reds, Wallabies forward Lukhan Salakaia-Loto returns to the starting side at blindside flanker, with Angus Scott-Young moving to no.8.

Scott Higginbotham moves to the bench, while former Shute Shield gun Seb Wileman could make his Super Rugby debut against his former state after being called on to the bench as cover in the backs.

The Reds take on the Waratahs at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday, May 18, at 7:45pm, live on Fox Sports, Kayo Sports and via RUGBY.com.au radio.

Lukhan Salakaia-Loto takes the ball up against the Crusaders. Photo: Rugby AU Media/Stuart Walmsley

TEAM

Reds to face Waratahs:

1. JP Smith – GPS

2. Alex Mafi – Bond University

3. Taniela Tupou – Brothers

4. Izack Rodda – Easts

5. Angus Blyth – Bond University

6. Lukhan Salakaia-Loto – Souths

7. Liam Wright – Easts

8. Angus Scott-Young – University of Queensland

9. Tate McDermott – University of Queensland

10. Bryce Hegarty – GPS

11. Sefa Naivalu – Norths

12. Samu Kerevi (c) – Souths

13. Chris Feauai-Sautia – Souths

14. Jock Campbell – University of Queensland

15. Matt McGahan – Norths

Reserves:

16. Brandon Paenga-Amosa – Sunnybank

17. Harry Hoopert – Brothers

18. Ruan Smith – GPS

19. Scott Higginbotham – Wests

20. Caleb Timu – Souths

21. Moses Sorovi – Wests

22. Duncan Paia’aua – Norths

23. Seb Wileman – Brothers