Wallabies centre Hunter Paisami will play from the bench when the Queensland Reds open the Super Rugby Pacific season against the Melbourne Rebels on Saturday night.
Hamish Stewart and Josh Flook have been preferred in the centres for the 6.45pm (AEST) kick-off at Suncorp Stadium.
Punch in the centres wasn’t an obvious feature for the Reds in their 21-14 loss to the NSW Waratahs in the Roma trial last weekend although Stewart's poise withy a smart kick, big tackle or strong voice has been obvious.
Paisami missed the trial because of a positive COVID-19 test. While he was back training with the squad on Monday, the Reds haven’t yet explained whether being a reserve is part of a planned progression back to a full-intensity workload.
It’s certainly not the case for co-captain Tate McDermott. He was rested from the first trial against the Western Force and COVID ruled him out of Roma.
He will start in his yappy, sniping role at halfback without a minute of trial time behind him.
Jordan Petaia has been picked on the wing and Jock Campbell at fullback but there is an obvious change-up to hit the Rebels with in the second half.
The Petaia experiment at fullback could be given a go in the second half with Flook reverting to the wing, Paisami joining the centres and Campbell being subbed off.
The Reds have multiple options in that area just as they do in the backrow. Few teams are so well endowed they can leave openside flanker Fraser McReight on the bench. He will be an impact player later in the game with Angus Scott-Young, co-captain Liam Wright and Harry Wilson preferred in the backrow.
Form has counted for coach Brad Thorn. As much as Kalani Thomas impressed last year with that final pass to O’Connor to win the Super Rugby AU final, Jeans has been in hotter pre-season form.
The redheaded Jeans, a product of The Southport School, has a slick pass and has twice fed Harry Wilson for tries in the trials.
Flyhalf James O’Connor will log his 100th Super Rugby game in this match after career of vastly different fortunes and adventures with the Force, Rebels and Reds.
"It's great we're at home to kick-off the season in front of our Queensland fans on Saturday night,” Thorn said.
"Two guys could make their debuts off the bench. Spencer Jeans and Lawson Creighton have both impressed in the pre-season and deserve their selection.
"The Rebels will provide a tough contest. They've got an experienced side with plenty of players who have represented their country. We're looking forward to the challenge.”
The curtain-raiser at 5pm will feature a Charity Match between the Vintage Reds XV and Tongan Invitational XV to raise money for the UNICEF Australia Tongan Recovery Appeal. Donate now via: https://tonga.unicef.org.au/t/qru.
The stars of old bristling from both sides makes the 40-minute prelim a must see. George Smith, Chris Latham, Berrick Barnes, Jacob Rauluni, Steve and Mafi Kefu, Trevor Leota, Nathan Sharpe, Ben Mowen, Hosea Gear, Dan Leo, James Horwill, Stephen Moore and Nathan Sharpe are amongst the cast. Queensland Reds: Dane Zander, Alex Mafi, Taniela Tupou, Angus Blyth, Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, Angus Scott-Young, Liam Wright ©, Harry Wilson, Tate McDermott (c), James O’Connor, Filipo Daugunu, Hamish Stewart, Josh Flook, Jordan Petaia, Jock Campbell. Reserves: Josh Nasser, Harry Hoopert, Zane Nonggorr, Ryan Smit, Fraser McReight, Spencer Jeans, Hunter Paisami, Lawson Creighton