Thorn to weigh up team for Jaguares clash as Hockings declares fitness

Super Rugby
by Emma Greenwood

Reds coach Brad Thorn has some tough decisions to make in the next 24 hours as he considers a line-up capable of upsetting the Jaguares at home to open Queensland's Super Rugby account.

Thorn is set to have Harry Hockings available to him, with the 206cm lock recovered from a broken hand suffered late in the pre-season.

Hockings broke a bone in his hand after landing awkwardly at training ahead of the Reds' opening trial against the Rebels and was forced into surgery where a plate and screws were inserted.

But given the clean break, it has healed quickly and Hockings made the trip to South Africa and Argentina with his teammates last week.

"I had surgery on it three weeks ago now, so it was just a matter of letting it rest and letting it heal up but it's all good to go now," Hockings said from Argentina where the Reds completed recovery after arriving from South Africa.

"If selected I'm very keen to rip in, I've had a few weeks off now so I'm itching to get out there.

"It's been a little bit frustrating watching the boys got out there and put their heart into it but it's good to see them doing well so far and hopefully I'll get out there and join them sometime soon."

Izack Rodda returned to the starting side last week after coming off the bench in the season-opener following ankle surgery, with Angus Blyth starting at lock alongside Lukhan Salakaia-Loto.

Thorn will have to decide whether to continue with Salakaia-Loto in the tight five or to switch the Test flanker to the backrow, where his starters Angus Scott-Young, captain Liam Wright and rookie Harry Wilson have been among the team's standouts.

Injecting Hockings, likely on to the bench, could also come at the cost of Seru Uru, who has played the first two games of the season off the bench following a strong NRC season.

The Reds flew Ed Craig and Dave Feao to Argentina at the weekend to join their campaign after injuries to Feao Fotuaika and Brandon Paenga-Amosa.

Reserve hooker Sean Farrell was not used against the Lions, with Wallabies hopeful Alex Mafi playing 80 minutes as the Reds pushed for a comeback win in Johannesburg.

With 52 first grade games for Eastwood in the Shute Shield, Craig brings strong experience at the level below Super Rugby and is likely to be named on the bench, while Feao, a Tongan international, gives another option at tighthead.

Hockings acknowledged the Reds had a tough task against the Jaguares, who made last year's Super Rugby final and have one of the most feared packs in the competition.

But he cautioned against just playing the game up front.

"We'll have to do a fair bit of analysis this week to figure it out but obviously they're a tough team that take some beating," he said.

"We're going to have to be strong up front again but use our backs as well, they offer a lot in attack so you've got to spread it wide if you want to beat this team."

The Reds take on the Jaguares on Sunday, February 16, kicking off at 10:00am AEDT and broadcast LIVE on Fox Sports and Kayo.