Petaia in Reds' calculations ahead of final trial

Super Rugby
by Emma Greenwood

World Cup wonder Jordan Petaia is on track to make his Reds return against the Waratahs in Dalby on Friday night, with Queensland set to run a near full-strength side in their final trial.

While they still won't have the services of locks Izack Rodda (ankle cleanout) and Harry Hockings (broken hand), prop JP Smith (knee) and backrower Fraser McReight (thumb), the Reds could benefit from the return of Wallaby centre Jordan Petaia and new recruit Henry Speight.

Both missed last week's rout of the Rebels, with Reds staff monitoring their comebacks carefully.

Speight had an off-season cleanout of his knee but trained freely yesterday, while Petaia, who had been struggling with a hamstring problem, is also set to be considered for selection for the Dalby match.

The selection of the pair could give the Reds a full-strength backline in a tantalising preview of what lies ahead this season.

While likely flyhalf Isaac Lucas played inside James O'Connor in the opening half last week, Brisbane City three-quarter Hunter Paisami played at 13 against the Rebels and the possibility of a Lucas-O'Connor-Petaia-Speight line trotting out on Friday is exciting.

While they faced little opposition against a second-string Rebels outfit last week, the Reds face a sterner test against the Tahs on Friday, with NSW set to give several of their frontline players a run after resting them for last week's opening clash.

However, the possibility of the pair playing is another sign the Reds mean to hit the ground running this season and will be prepared for their great rivals.

With their opening three Super Rugby rounds away from home - and a South Africa-Argentina trip on top of their season-opener in Canberra against the Brumbies - Queensland coach Brad Thorn wants his team to be ready to go from the opening whistle.

"It's pretty important that first round. The first round's as important as the last one, so we're trying to do well there and generally a couple of trials (leading in) are good there," he said.

While he rewarded some players who might not see time in the regular season in Gladstone last week, the Reds will be all business in Dalby.

 

"In your second trial, I guess you're getting more of a look at the team that's looking likely (for round one) so they get a bit of cohesion together," he said.

Loosehead Harry Hoopert is set to return from a neck injury in Dalby in a match that will be a welcome home for the former Dalby Wheatmen representative.

"From what mum and dad have been telling me, everyone's been talking about it in town, so everyone's expecting a pretty heavy crowd there this weekend," he said.

"I know all the farmers, who are obviously going through a tough time, it's just something to get their mind off that and come and enjoy a bit of footy with the locals, so it should be good."

Hoopert said the team gained plenty from last week's hit-out and wanted to build on that.

"We've been working for the last six weeks, through pre-season on particular shapes and all the young boys, particularly, got a lot out of it.

"A lot of the older boys showing us around did a good job and as a team we did pretty well."

The Reds take on the Waratahs in Dalby on Friday, January 24, kicking off at 6:15pm local time (7:15pm AEDT), with the match LIVE on RUGBY.com.au.