UPDATE: "Queensland love smashing New South Wales": Wright fired up for Waratahs clash, ready for position shift

Super Rugby - AU
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Reds captain Liam Wright says he's looking forward to "smashing some New South Welshmen" in an early sign there will be plenty of fire in Friday night's Super Rugby AU opener.

The Waratahs brought in Blues Origin great Paul Gallen to speak about the Queensland-NSW rivalry and Queensland have their own State of Origin hero in coach Brad Thorn to spice things up.

Wright was confident that Thorn wouldn't need to prod the Reds group to try and spark any extra motivation for the interstate clash.

"He's our own Paul Gallen," Wright joked, referring to Thorn.

"But he didn't need to pump us up too much. We're Queenslanders and Queensland want to smash New South Wales.

"It's in the water up here."

The Reds and Waratahs didn't cross paths in this year's ultimately cancelled Super Rugby campaign but Queensland bested their southern rivals in a preseason trial in Dalby.

With both teams fielding fairly young teams, there will be a sense of familiarity in some senses.

A number of those running out on Friday night have shared Junior Wallabies campaigns together and been the tightest of teammates.

That won't matter come kick off, though, with Wright adamant the ferocity of the interstate rivalry was still as strong as ever.

"I think it's still kicking," he said

"We're very looking forward to going out and smashing some new South Welshmen.

"I think if you ask any of the boys, this is the number one game on their calendar and we're just lucky we get to start with it and can't wait to get out there Friday night."

Queensland's backrow combinations will look a little bit different in the competition opener with Thorn making tweaks to the lineup.

Wright shifts to blindside flanker and Junior Wallabies captain Fraser McReight earns his first Reds start.

Fraser McReight has been given the starting no. 7. jersey. Photo: QRU Media/Brendan HertelMcReight battled with injury in the early parts of the year but his potential is well-known after he led the Junior Wallabies to a second-place finish in last year's World Rugby U20s championships.

Wright has taken the move in his stride, welcoming increased lineout action.

"I've always fancied the lineout so to get back in there and do some more jumping will be pretty cool I think and it allows us to unleash," he said.

"I think we've still got that real good combination going in the back row with me, Harry and Fraser, so I think we'll work well with each other and it's not a huge change for my game, just a bit more set piece-orientated and then me and Frase will try and get around as much of the field as we can."

Thorn said he was excited to see the duo in tandem on Friday night.

"It's been mixing and matching throughout the training sessions and to see Fraser and Liam work together, I think it's a really good combo and obviously we've got Angus Scott-Young around there as well who's very competitive around that six and eight spot, with Harry Wilson," he said.

"It's just healthy but it's exciting to see.

"Young Fraser's been coming through, had him at U20s and he's had time in NRC and he got a few touches last year and he was getting opportunities this year and he'll be excited about a start.

"Obviously, Liam's been growing as a player and as a leader, so pleased where those guys are heading."

The departure of Izack Rodda and Harry Hockings last month made things somewhat more straightforward, opening the door for blindside option Lukhan Salakaia-Loto to team up with Angus Blyth in the lock department.

Harry Wilson and Hunter Paisami have both returned from injuries to be picked to start in the squad in a boost for Queensland as well.

Josh Flook is in line for a Reds debut off the bench. Photo: Getty ImagesLast year's Australian schools  & U18s captain Josh Flook is in line for his first senior appearance, after being elevated to the main squad in the wake of Rodda, Hockings and Isaac Lucas's departure.

Thorn was full of praise for Flook, who has played first grade for Brisbane's Brothers since leaving school, as well as being part of the schools & U18s outfit.

"He's a very fine player," he said.

"He's got a lot of maturity for his age, for a 19-year-old.

"He's played a couple of years of senior footy in the local competition and he just has real composure for such a young guy.

"He's the sort of guy when the ball heads his way or defensively, when things, traffic's coming his way, as a coach you feel a sense of ease or comfort because you know he's going to make the right decision.

"I think he's got a really bright future, I think he's a guy you're going to see for many years to come and this is the start of his journey and there's an opportunity perhaps on the weekend.

"It's just great seeing, you talk about Queensland rugby, but Australian rugby continues to produce this talent coming through."

Second rower Tuaina Taii Tualima is the other potential debutant in the Reds 23.

The Waratahs announced their team earlier on Wednesday.

The Waratahs take on the Reds on Friday July 3 at Suncorp Stadium, kicking off at 7:05pm AEST, LIVE on Foxtel, Foxtel Now and Kayo Sports. Buy a Kayo subscription here.

TEAMS

Reds to face the Waratahs

1. Harry Hoopert – Brothers

2. Brandon Paenga-Amosa – Sunnybank 

3. Taniela Tupou – Brothers 

4. Angus Blyth – Bond University 

5. Lukhan Salakaia-Loto – Souths 

6. Liam Wright – Easts © 

7. Fraser McReight – Brothers

8. Harry Wilson – Brothers 

9. Tate McDermott – University of Queensland

10. James O’Connor – Brothers 

11. Filipo Daugunu – Wests

12. Hamish Stewart – Brothers 

13. Hunter Paisami – Wests 

14. Jock Campbell – University of Queensland

15. Bryce Hegarty – GPS 

Reserves

16. Alex Mafi – Bond University 

17. JP Smith – GPS

18. Josh Nasser – University of Queensland

19. Tuaina Taii Tualima* – GPS 

20. Angus Scott-Young – University of Queensland

21. Scott Malolua – Souths 

22. Chris Feauai-Sautia – Souths

23. Josh Flook* – Brothers