The Reds host the Brumbies in Super Rugby action at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane on Friday in what is their first home game of the season.
It has not exactly been the ideal start for both sides ahead of what should be a feisty all-Aussie derby.
The Brumbies started poorly in their 32-25 victory over the Sunwolves in Tokyo on Friday with the Japanese side leading 19-15 at the interval.
Coach Dan McKellar will be relieved his side managed to secure the win in his maiden game at the helm but will know his side need to improve.
The Reds, meanwhile, had captain Scott Higginbotham red-carded in the 14th minute of their drubbing at the hands of the Rebels and one shouldn’t read too much in to their performance as they were always going to face an uphill battle with the numerical disadvantage.
Like the Rebels, they too have a new coach at the helm in Brad Thorn who is looking forward to the first home game of the season.
“Friday is our first chance to play in front of our home fans and the guys are keen to bounce back from a disappointing loss last weekend,” he said.
“The Brumbies are a solid team. They’re strong at their set piece and around the breakdown. They’ve been together for a long time, they’ll be a tough challenge.”
Unfortunately for Thorn, he will have to make duo without number eight Higginbotham and lock Lukhan Tui, who have both been suspended for three weeks, which makes this Reds side even thinner on experience.
The Reds will be looking for consecutive home wins against Australian opposition for the first time since Round 2, 2013 having managed to pick up a one-point win against the Brumbies in their most recent encounter, snapping a five-game losing streak against them in which time they conceded an average of 37 points per game.
The last time the teams met: The Brumbies looked on course to win the game, leading through a Kyle Godwin score and a penalty try with Hamish Watson having dotted down for the Reds. However, up stepped Quade Cooper to slot a dramatic, match-winning penalty and break a five-game losing streak for the Reds against the men from Canberra.
Team news: The Reds have made two forced personnel changes to their starting XV, to cover the losses of Number 8 Scott Higginbotham and lock Lukhan Tui to suspension.
Tui has been replaced by Kane Douglas, while Higginbotham’s absence has caused a reshuffle in the back row. Liam Wright will make his run-on debut at openside flanker, with Caleb Timu shifting to Number 8 and Adam Korczyk moving to blindside flanker.
Lock Harry Hockings and back rower Angus Scott-Young are also in line for a potential Queensland and Super Rugby debut after being named on the bench. The pair have risen through the Queensland pathway, having represented the state’s U20s and Bond University Queensland Country in recent years.
The Reds have also named prop James Slipper as interim captain, in the absence of Higginbotham.
Reds head coach Brad Thorn said: “Clearly we’re disappointed to lose Scott and Lukhan but it has happened and we just need to get on with it. We had a challenging pre-season and everyone came out the other side better for it, so I’ve got full confidence in the guys that are stepping into those roles.
“We welcomed five new faces to the Reds family last week and there’s the potential for another couple of debutants this Friday. I’ve worked with Harry and Angus for the last two years and I’m excited to see them get an opportunity.”
Meanwhile, Brumbies head coach Dan McKellar has made two changes to his starting XV with Rory Arnold and Lachlan McCaffrey coming into the side.
Lock Arnold replaces his brother Richie in the second row with McCaffrey, who made a try scoring appearance for the luckless Rob Valetini against the Sunwolves in Tokyo, starting his first Brumbies Super Rugby match since 2014.
There are three changes amongst the replacements with Auckland-born prop Nic Mayhew recovered from injury and selected on the bench in place of Faalelei Sione, whilst Lolo Fakaosilea comes in as back row cover and Blake Enever, a non-playing reserve in Tokyo, back in the match-day twenty-three.
Other than that, it’s as you were for the team that scored five tries in the gutsy 32-25 success over the Sunwolves, a match in which the Brumbies showed excellent character and composure to overturn a half-time deficit to claim the victory.
Ben Alexander edges ever-closer to the 150-cap milestone by starting in an unchanged front row alongside hooker Josh Mann-Rea and Allan Alaalatoa, the former having scored a trademark try off the back of a rolling maul at the Prince Chichibu Stadium.
Sam Carter will lead the team as captain, lining up alongside Arnold in an all-Wallaby second row, with McCaffrey packing down in a dynamic looking back row combination alongside the mobile Tom Cusack and the hard-running Isi Naisarani.
Joe Powell and Christian Lealiifano form the halfback pairing with the duo aiming to continue to enhance their understanding together and free the likes of Kyle Godwin and Tevita Kuridrani into open ground, both of whom claimed tries in the opening round success.
Out wide Henry Speight and Chance Peni will be looking to get ball in hand in space with Tom Banks another potent attacking threat from fullback, Banks making a return to his former stomping ground having earned a brace of caps for the Reds before heading to the national capital.
Outside of the three changes on the bench outlined, Robbie Abel continues as back-up hooker with Leslie Leuluaialii-Makin the other prop option alongside the returning Mayhew.
McKellar has opted for a five/three split in the replacements with scrumhalf Matt Lucas, utility back Wharenui Hawera and Lausii Taliauli the options available.
2017: Reds won 16-15 in Brisbane
2017: Brumbies won 43-10 in Canberra
2016: Brumbies won 43-24 in Canberra
2015: Brumbies won 29-0 in Brisbane
2015: Brumbies won 47-3 in Canberra
2014: Brumbies won 23-20 in Brisbane
2014: Reds won 27-17 in Canberra
2013: The sides drew 19-19 in Brisbane
2013: Brumbies won 24-6 in Canberra
Reds: 15 Aidan Toua, 14 Chris Feauai-Sautia, 13 Samu Kerevi, 12 Duncan Paia’aua, 11 Eto Nabuli, 10 Jono Lance, 9 James Tuttle, 8 Caleb Timu, 7 Liam Wright, 6 Adam Korczyk, 5 Kane Douglas, 4 Izack Rodda, 3 Taniela Tupou, 2 Brandon Paenga-Amosa, 1 James Slipper
Replacements: 16 Alex Mafi, 17 JP Smith, 18 Sef Fa’agase, 19 Harry Hockings, 20 Angus Scott-Young, 21 Tate McDermott, 22 Hamish Stewart, 23 Filipo Daugunu
Brumbies: 15 Tom Banks, 14 Henry Speight, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Kyle Godwin, 11 Chance Peni, 10 Christian Lealiifano, 9 Joe Powell, 8 Isi Naisarani, 7 Tom Cusack, 6 Lachlan Mccaffrey, 5 Sam Carter, 4 Rory Arnold, 3 Allan Alaalatoa, 2 Josh Mann-Rea, 1 Ben Alexander
Replacements: 16 Robbie Abel, 17 Nic Mayhew, 18 Leslie Leuluaialii-Makin, 19 Blake Enever, 20 Lolo Fakaosilea, 21 Matt Lucas, 22 Wharenui Hawera, 23 Lausii Taliauli
Date: Friday, March 2
Venue: Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
Kick-off: 19:00 local (09:00 GMT)
Referee: Angus Gardner (Australia)
Assistant referees: Will Houston (Australia), James Leckie (Australia)
TMO: George Ayoub (Australia)