TEAM NEWS: Salakaia-Loto returns for full-strength Reds

Super Rugby
by Emma Greenwood

The Reds have named a full-strength line-up for their clash against the Brumbies, hoping to cause an upset of the Australian conference champions in their final match of the 2019 season.

Queensland have made two changes to the starting XV for the match, with Lukhan Salakaia-Loto returning after a break under Rugby Australia's workload management policy, while Harry Hockings will start in the second row with Angus Blyth rested due to an AC injury.

Scott Higginbotham will also start from the bench in his final game for Queensland, with Angus Scott-Young starting at no.8.

Caleb Timu and Sefa Naivalu return to the Reds’ 23 for this weekend.

The Reds see the match as a great challenge to end their season but are well aware they will be judged harshly if they fail to come away with a win and their season record reads as though they have not made improvements on last year.

Queensland's last-gasp victory over the Blues last start gave them six wins, equalling last season's tally.

Scott Higginbotham celebrates the Reds' drought-breaking win in his final home match. Photo: Getty Images

But if they lose to the Brumbies on Saturday night, their season - on paper - is no better than last year. 

Defence coach Peter Ryan said teams were judged on wins and losses.

"With the growth of the team that we've had for the year, in terms of the age of the team and then the injuries that we've had on top of that, if we get away with a  win this week, it certainly puts us in a strong position going into next season," Ryan said.

"But when it's all said and done, it's about those wins and losses and unfortunately, if we lose this weekend, we're going to come away with the same number of wins we had last year.

"Have we made improvements? Of course we have but when it comes down to those wins and losses, it's sticks in the craw, so to speak."

Ryan, a former Brumbies defence coach, said his old club would need no more motivation on Saturday than winning their final pool match.

"On top of that, they've had five on the run, so winning a sixth game in a row leading into the finals would be an amazing feat for them," Ryan said.

Reds defence coach Peter Ryan laws down the law to players. Photo: Rugby AU Media/Stuart Walmsley

"We beat them convincingly last time in what was quite a warm day up here, so they'll be looking forward to us coming down to what will be quite cool temperatures."

Samu Kerevi has been named at centre and will captain the Reds despite having only been rested from one fixture this season under Rugby Australia's workload management policy.

It is all but certain to be Kerevi's final match for Queensland - at least for some time - with the Reds talisman understood to be headed to Japan to play with Suntory next season.

"There was no real pressure from Rugby Australia because we've lost so many players this year and it's tough for us to take out our leader on the field and probably our best player, off for any length of time," Ryan said.

"That's probably the issue with it from our point of view and Rugby Australia have been on board with us and supportive of us, so credit to them in that regard."

While most of the top Wallabies have been forced to sit out two matches, the fact that the Reds will not be involved in the finals would also be a mitigating factor.

But the official cloud over his future continues.

Reds captain Samu Kerevi, playing possibly his final home game for the Reds, reacts after their 29-28 win over the Blues. Photo: Getty Images

"I don't know what the future holds for Samu, I don't even know his contractual situation. I'm just an assistant coach here," Ryan said.

But he did confirm his value to the team.

"He's an amazing player and for him to miss any time out with us as a team is huge and near impossible to replace - definitely in the short-term he's not replaceable - but if he ever does get an injury or if he does happen to go to another club at some point, to our recruitment guys' credit, they're on the look for individuals all the time.

"To find someone of his calibre is a really tough ask. A tough ask for someone on the field (that's in his class) but then the guy that's off the field is such a quality person and that's the whole package with Samu.

"And to find someone to replace that is really difficult."

 A victory on Saturday night would see the Reds reclaim the Rod Macqueen Cup following Queensland’s 36-14 win at Suncorp Stadium in Round 6.

The Reds take on the Brumbies at GIO Stadium in Canberra on Saturday, June 15, kicking off at 7:45pm AEST, live on Fox Sports and Kayo and via RUGBY.com.au radio.

TEAM

Reds to take on Brumbies: 

1. JP Smith – GPS

2. Alex Mafi – Bond University

3. Taniela Tupou – Brothers

4. Izack Rodda – Easts

5. Harry Hockings – University of Queensland 

6. Lukhan Salakaia-Loto – Souths

7. Liam Wright – Easts

8. Angus Scott-Young – University of Queensland

9. Scott Malolua – Souths

10. Matt McGahan – Norths

11. Filipo Daugunu – Wests

12. Samu Kerevi – Souths (c)

13. Chris Feauai-Sautia – Souths

14. Jock Campbell – University of Queensland

15. Bryce Hegarty – GPS

Reserves:

16. Brandon Paenga-Amosa – Sunnybank

17. Ruan Smith – GPS 

18. Gav Luka – Bond University  

19. Caleb Timu – Souths   

20. Scott Higginbotham – Wests 

21. Moses Sorovi – Wests

22. Duncan Paia’aua – Norths

23. Sefa Naivalu – Norths