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TEAM NEWS: Depth in backs the 'silver lining' to Petaia injury; four new faces on bench

Super Rugby
by Emma Greenwood

Reds assistant coach Peter Ryan says the team's depth in the outside backs is the silver lining to Jordan Petaia's season-ending injury.

The Reds announced an unchanged starting XV for their opening home game of the season against the Sunwolves on Saturday, where they will be chasing a first win of the year after three consecutive losses.

Hunter Paisami, who won the Reds' players' player award after stepping in for Petaia against the Jaguares last week, will again wear the no.13 jersey and has the chance to clinch the jumper for the season.

But with Filipo Daugunu due back from suspension next week and Chris Feauai-Sautia notching a double against the Jaguares in his first start of the season last week, he will have plenty of competition.

"Hunter Paisami filled in last week and did an admirable job and got players' player for last week's game against the Jaguares in a very physical game," Ryan said.

"And we've also got Chris Sautia and Filipo (Daugunu) to fill into those positions and gives us that depth in those outside back regions.

"Although it's a very sad time, it's a very positive time for those guys too, to be able to come into the squad."

Ryan said all at the Reds felt for Petaia and were concerned for his well-being after the teen was ruled out for the Super Rugby season for a second consecutive year.

"The unfortunate thing as well with it, was it was an injury in training as opposed to a game," Ryan said.

"You can live with it a little bit more as a player when you get an injury in a game but when it's at training and just not supposed to happen - and it was just in unfortunate circumstances that the injury did happen - (it's tougher).

"Everyone really is pulling for Jordan and we're all getting around him … he's such a wonderful young bloke and a fantastic footballer with a massive future in front of him, he's only 19 years of age, so I'm sure we're going to see a lot more longevity for him in his career."

The Reds' preparations for the Sunwolves have focused on recovery as much as tough training this week after their arrival back in Brisbane on Monday from a three-week road trip.

"It's such a difficult trip around the world in two-and-a-half weeks with three games and it puts us in a tough position to perform, so we make it a light week," he said.

"The session (on Wednesday) night probably went a little longer than we'd anticipated but it was absolutely necessary, you've got to blow the cobwebs out and make sure the guys get a decent night's sleep and that will lead into the back end of the week with a  nice sharp session on Friday and then the game on Saturday.

"I think we're in a pretty good head space, although some of the guys are quite tired and have been jet-lagged, I think they'll have a good day off (on Thursday).

"The professionalism of the group is fantastic and it puts us in a really good position."

While their starting XV is unchanged, the Reds welcome several new faces on to the bench, with prop Harry Hoopert (neck), backrower Fraser McReight (thumb) and Scott Malolua (shoulder) all returning from injuries that kept them out of the first three games.

Hooker Ed Craig, who joined the Reds in Argentina last week from Shute Shield outfit Eastwood as injury replacement cover for Brandon Paenga-Amosa, could potentially make his Super Rugby and Queensland debut off the bench.

The Reds take on the Sunwolves on Saturday, February 22, kicking off at 6:15pm local (7:15pm AEDT) and broadcast LIVE on Fox Sports, Kayo and via RUGBY.com.au RADIO.

TEAM

Reds to face Sunwolves

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 (c) – Easts

8. Harry Wilson – Brothers

9. Tate McDermott – University of Queensland

10. James O’Connor – Brothers

11. Henry Speight – Bond University

12. Hamish Stewart – Brothers

13. Hunter Paisami – Wests

14. Chris Feauai-Sautia – Souths

15. Jock Campbell – University of Queensland 

Reserves

16. Ed Craig* – TBC

17. Harry Hoopert – Brothers

18. Josh Nasser – University of Queensland

19. Harry Hockings – University of Queensland

20. Fraser McReight – Brothers

21. Scott Malolua – GPS 

22. Isaac Lucas – Sunnybank

23. Bryce Hegarty – GPS