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TEAM NEWS: Hockings earns first start, Daugunu returns from suspension for Reds

Super Rugby
by Emma Greenwood

The Reds have made two changes to their starting side ahead of their testing clash against the Sharks at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday night.

After playing two games off the bench following recovery from a broken hand, Harry Hockings gets his first start of the season at lock alongside Izack Rodda, with Angus Blyth rested from the 23.

Angus Scott-Young also heads back into the starting XV after being rested last week, with Lukhan Salakaia-Loto shuffled to the bench to ease his workload.

Reds assistant coach Jim McKay said the changes were in part due to the massive amount of competition for spots, something that would serve the team well as they look to manage the players' workload in what they hope will be a long season.

"There's plenty of competition there from one to 15 and within the forwards there's some guys that have been doing a lot of minutes," McKay said.

"We believe that Hocko this week and Angus (Scott-Young) will provide some energy to start the game and then you've got Lukhan as well to come off the bench, so that's a good situation to be in."

Flying Fijian Filipo Daugunu also returns to the side after serving a five-week suspension for a dangerous tackle in a pre-season match against the Rebels.

Daugunu comes on to the bench, with Bryce Hegarty slipping out of the 23, with the winger set to provide plenty of competition for Henry Speight, Chris Feauai-Sautia and Jock Campbell in the jostle for the back three.

"In the backs, we've got Lipo (Daugunu), who's served his five-week suspension for his misdemeanour and that adds depth to us and there's competition for spots," McKay said.

"If we cast our memory back, he scored those five tries at Gladstone, so if he's in that sort of form again, he'll be a good guy to bring off the bench and finish the game as well."

McKay said the next two weeks, against the powerhouse Sharks and Sunwolves, would provide a strong test for the Reds to gauge their potential as a finals side.

"It's a really good test for us. We've been competitive each game and led each game at halftime and we learnt some pretty harsh lessons with those first three games, finding a way to not close them out," he said.

"It was good last week against the Sunwolves to find a way to go on with the job. But certainly this week and the next week (against the Crusaders) playing two of the top teams, by reputation and certainly by competition log, the Sharks offer really strong challenges for us, so it will be a really good challenge to see where we're at.

"We're prepared and we're going to give it everything we've got."

The Reds take on the Sharks at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday, February 29, kicking off at 7:15pm AEDT (6:15pm local), with the match LIVE on Fox Sports, Kayo and via RUGBY.com.au RADIO.

The game is the second leg of a double-header featuring the Reds-Rebels Super W clash kicking off at 4:40pm AEDT (3:40pm local) and broadcast LIVE on RUGBY.com.au, Fox Sports and Kayo.

TEAM

Reds to face Sharks

1. JP Smith – GPS

2. Alex Mafi – Bond University

3. Taniela Tupou – Brothers

4. Izack Rodda – Easts

5. Harry Hockings – University of Queensland

6. Angus Scott-Young – University of Queensland

7. Liam Wright Β© – 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. Lukhan Salakaia-Loto – Souths

20. Fraser McReight – Brothers

21. Scott Malolua – GPS 

22. Isaac Lucas – Sunnybank

23. Filipo Daugunu – Wests