The Reds have suffered a blow ahead of their testing road trip to South Africa and Argentina, with capped Wallabies hooker Brandon Paenga-Amosa forced out with injury.
Paenga-Amosa will consult a surgeon in Brisbane on Monday after suffering ankle ligament damage early in the Reds’ loss to the Brumbies in Canberra on Friday night.
After being forced from the ground in the opening minutes of the match, Paenga-Amosa ended the evening in hospital having scans which confirmed ligament damage.
It’s a massive blow for the rake, who had regained his starting g spot from Alex Mafi after a huge off-season of toil.
A strong showing with Brisbane City in the NRC supercharged Paenga-Amosa’s campaign and he showed great form in Queensland’s pre-season trials against the Rebels and Waratahs.
While his replacement on tour is yet to be finalised, the Reds are in safe hands with Mafi set to start against the Lions in Johannesburg on Saturday after emerging unscathed from the Brumbies clash.
Mafi spent much of the off-season in the rehab group after aggravating a calf injury while playing NRC for Queensland Country but after lasting more than 70 minutes in near 40 degree heat on Friday, has proved his fitness.
Mafi and Paenga-Amosa had been set to push each other to new heights this season though, bringing out the best in each other as they chased a Wallaby jersey.
"We'll definitely be pushing each other the whole season, not just for the Wallaby jersey but for the Reds as well, to be the best that we can for the club," Paenga-Amosa said in the pre-season.
"We're not selfish players, it's all about pushing each other for the squad."
And he will be devastated to miss the South African tour, believing it could help set him and the Reds up for something special this season.
"The Reds are here to play, we're not here to just much around or just miss out, we're here to go for it," he said.
"There's something definitely stirring here at the Reds. Whoever's playing, whatever happens, I just can't wait to hit the ground running and start playing with the boys.
"We're heading to South Africa straight away, so I reckon that will be great for us just team bonding, get together."
Sean Farrell, Harry Hockings, Josh Nasser and Chris Feauai-Sautia joined the squad that faced the Brumbies for the South Africa-Argentina tour.
After being part of the Reds training squad last year, Farrell won a contract for 2020 and could be in line to make his debut from the bench over the next fortnight.
Their challenge now though is to return from one of world sport’s toughest road assignments with at least one win to energise home fans and kick-start their campaign.