The Reds travel to Tokyo on Saturday following a bye week to take on a Sunwolves outfit still searching for their first win of the season.
Saturday’s encounter will only be the second meeting between the sides, with the Reds emerging 35-25 victors in Brisbane back in 2016.
The Sunwolves are yet to win against Australian opposition in Super Rugby. In fact, it is the only country whose teams they have failed to beat.
However, the Reds’ recent record outside Australia is dismal as the Queensland side have lost 20 of their last 22 games played outside of the country.
Meanwhile, the Sunwolves will need to watch out for the Reds’ driving maul, which is a potent weapon, as they showed against the Lions a fortnight ago – scoring in this manner with just one and a half minutes played in that match.
The Reds’ experiment of picking fly-half Hamish Stewart at 15 is an interesting one. Stewart showed his quality against the Lions with that scything run that led to Brandon Paenga-Amosa’s try and it will be intriguing to see how he goes with more time and space on his hands from full-back.
The Reds were absolutely sublime in that first-half against the Lions and 13 minutes after half-time (holding a 27-0 lead until the 53rd minute). The Sunwolves present an opportunity for the Reds to put on a bit of a show and it seems coach Brad Thorn is intent on doing so by picking a strong side.
“The guys are excited at the challenge ahead. It’s our first trip to Japan to take on the Sunwolves and while the results haven’t gone their way this season, they’re a dangerous team,” he said.
“The players have come back fresh from the bye and there’s a good energy among the group. We’re just going about our business, working hard and trying to improve as the season continues.”
Team news: Sunwolves head coach Jamie Joseph has made several changes to his XV.
Semisi Masirewa starts at full-back while there is a switch of wings for Kenki Fukuoka and Hosea Saumaki, with Yutaka Nagare at scrum-half.
In the second-row Wimpie van der Walt starts alongside Grant Hattingh while Edward Quirk and Michael Leitch come in on the flanks for the game.
Meanwhile, Reds head coach Brad Thorn has made three alterations to his starting XV.
The changes to the Brisbane-based outfit’s run-on side are highlighted by the return from injury of seasoned campaigners James Slipper and Jono Lance.
Slipper has recovered from a collar bone injury to regain the starting loosehead jersey. He will also resume his role as stand-in skipper, in the absence of injured captain Scott Higginbotham.
The only other change to the starting pack is a back-row reshuffle, with Adam Korczyk coming in for Caleb Timu, who suffered an ankle injury in the win over the Lions in Brisbane two weeks ago. Korczyk has been named at blindside flanker, with Angus Scott-Young shifting to number eight.
In the backs, Lance’s return from a concussion sees him slot back into the starting fly-half role, with Hamish Stewart moving to starting full-back. Stewart’s positional change sees Aidan Toua move to the bench for the first time this season, with Izaia Perese dropping out of the matchday squad.
In the reserves, prop Sef Fa’agase is back in the matchday 23 for the first time since Round 9, taking the place of Ruan Smith.
Flanker Liam Wright has also been brought back into the side, taking the spot made available by Korczyk’s promotion to the starting XV.
Twin brothers JP and Ruan Smith were not considered for selection for this match, after the pair missed training commitments early in the bye week.
The match will be lock Kane Douglas’ 100th Super Rugby cap, after making his debut back in 2010.
2016: The Reds won 35-25 in Brisbane
Sunwolves: 15 Semisi Masirewa, 14 Kenki Fukuoka, 13 Timothy Lafaele, 12 Michael Little, 11 Hosea Saumaki, 10 Hayden Parker, 9 Yutaka Nagare, 8 Kazuki Himeno, 7 Edward Quirk, 6 Michael Leitch, 5 Grant Hattingh, 4 Wimpie van der Walt, 3 Takuma Asahara, 2 Shota Horie, 1 Craig Millar
Replacements: 16 Yusuke Niwai, 17 Shintaro Ishihara, 18 Hencus van Wyk, 19 Uwe Helu, 20 Yoshitaka Tokunaga, 21 Fumiaki Tanaka, 22 Yu Tamura, 23 Jason Emery
Reds: 15 Hamish Stewart, 14 Filipo Daugunu, 13 Chris Feauai-Sautia, 12 Samu Kerevi, 11 Jordan Petaia, 10 Jono Lance, 9 Ben Lucas, 8 Angus Scott-Young, 7 George Smith, 6 Adam Korczyk, 5 Kane Douglas, 4 Izack Rodda, 3 Taniela Tupou, 2 Brandon Paenga-Amosa, 1 James Slipper (c)
Replacements: 16 Alex Mafi, 17 Harry Hoopert, 18 Sef Fa’agase, 19 Harry Hockings, 20 Liam Wright, 21 Moses Sorovi, 22 Duncan Paia’aua, 23 Aidan Toua
Date: Saturday, May 12
Venue: Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium, Tokyo
Kick-off: 12:05 local (03:05 GMT)
Referee: Egon Seconds (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Akihisa Aso (Japan), Tasuku Kawara (Japan)
Television match official: Minoru Fuji (Japan)