Reds assistant coach Peter Ryan says the team’s depth in the outside backs is the silver lining to Jordan Petaia’s season-ending injury.
The Reds announced an unchanged starting XV for their opening home game of the season against the Sunwolves on Saturday, where they will be chasing a first win of the year after three consecutive losses.
Hunter Paisami, who won the Reds’ players’ player award after stepping in for Petaia against the Jaguares last week, will again wear the no.13 jersey and has the chance to clinch the jumper for the season.
But with Filipo Daugunu due back from suspension next week and Chris Feauai-Sautia notching a double against the Jaguares in his first start of the season last week, he will have plenty of competition.
“Hunter Paisami filled in last week and did an admirable job and got players’ player for last week’s game against the Jaguares in a very physical game,” Ryan said.
“And we’ve also got Chris Sautia and Filipo (Daugunu) to fill into those positions and gives us that depth in those outside back regions.
“Although it’s a very sad time, it’s a very positive time for those guys too, to be able to come into the squad.”
Ryan said all at the Reds felt for Petaia and were concerned for his well-being after the teen was ruled out for the Super Rugby season for a second consecutive year.
“The unfortunate thing as well with it, was it was an injury in training as opposed to a game,” Ryan said.
“You can live with it a little bit more as a player when you get an injury in a game but when it’s at training and just not supposed to happen – and it was just in unfortunate circumstances that the injury did happen – (it’s tougher).
“Everyone really is pulling for Jordan and we’re all getting around him … he’s such a wonderful young bloke and a fantastic footballer with a massive future in front of him, he’s only 19 years of age, so I’m sure we’re going to see a lot more longevity for him in his career.”
The Reds’ preparations for the Sunwolves have focused on recovery as much as tough training this week after their arrival back in Brisbane on Monday from a three-week road trip.
“It’s such a difficult trip around the world in two-and-a-half weeks with three games and it puts us in a tough position to perform, so we make it a light week,” he said.
“The session (on Wednesday) night probably went a little longer than we’d anticipated but it was absolutely necessary, you’ve got to blow the cobwebs out and make sure the guys get a decent night’s sleep and that will lead into the back end of the week with a nice sharp session on Friday and then the game on Saturday.
“I think we’re in a pretty good head space, although some of the guys are quite tired and have been jet-lagged, I think they’ll have a good day off (on Thursday).
“The professionalism of the group is fantastic and it puts us in a really good position.”
While their starting XV is unchanged, the Reds welcome several new faces on to the bench, with prop Harry Hoopert (neck), backrower Fraser McReight (thumb) and Scott Malolua (shoulder) all returning from injuries that kept them out of the first three games.
Hooker Ed Craig, who joined the Reds in Argentina last week from Shute Shield outfit Eastwood as injury replacement cover for Brandon Paenga-Amosa, could potentially make his Super Rugby and Queensland debut off the bench.
THE REDS HAVE PLAYED THE SUNWOLVES FIVE TIMES IN SUPER RUGBY SINCE 2016; THE REDS HAVE WON FOUR MATCHES AND LOST ONE.
Queensland’s four wins out of five give them a record of winning 80% of their matches against the Sunwolves regardless of venue.
This weekend’s match will be played in Brisbane which is home for the Reds and the venue where the teams have met three times.
In those three matches played in Brisbane, the Reds have won all three and lost none. It gives the Australians a record of winning 100% of their matches against the Japanse franchise at home.
The average score when Queensland play the Tokyo-based team in Brisbane: Reds 38 Sunwolves 26.
Average score: Reds 35 Sunwolves 34
Last five results
Fri, 03 May 2019 Reds 32-26 Sunwolves @Brisbane
Sat, 16 Mar 2019 Reds 34-31 Sunwolves @Tokyo
Fri, 13 Jul 2018 Reds 48-27 Sunwolves @Brisbane
Sat, 12 May 2018 Reds 28-63 Sunwolves @Tokyo
Sat, 21 May 2016 Reds 35-25 Sunwolves @Brisbane
Reds overall record against the Sunwolves
Played 5, Wins 4, Losses 1, Draws 0
15 Jock Campbell, 14 Chris Feauai-Sautia, 13 Hunter Paisami, 12 Hamish Stewart, 11 Henry Speight, 10 James O’Connor, 9 Tate McDermott, 8 Harry Wilson, 7 Liam Wright (captain), 6 Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, 5 Angus Blyth, 4 Izack Rodda, 3 Taniela Tupou, 2 Alex Mafi, 1 JP Smith
Replacements: 16 Ed Craig, 17 Harry Hoopert, 18 Josh Nasser, 19 Harry Hockings, 20 Fraser McReight, 21 Scott Malolua, 22 Isaac Lucas, 23 Bryce Hegarty
15 Jordan Jackson-Hope, 14 Siosaia Fifita, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Ben Te’o, 11 James Dargaville, 10 Garth April, 9 Naoto Saito, 8 Jake Schatz (captain), 7 Mitch Jacobson, 6 Kyo Yoshida, 5 Michael Stolberg, 4 Corey Thomas, 3 Conraad van Vuuren, 2 Jaba Bregvadze, 1 Chris Eves
Replacements: 16 Effie Ma’afu, 17 Nic Mayhew, 18 Hencus van Wyk, 19 Kotaro Yatabe, 20 Tevita Tupou, 21 Rudy Paige, 22 Keisuke Moriya, 23 Shogo Nakano
Match Officials and details
Date: Saturday 22 February
Venue: Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
Kick-Off local: 18:15
Referee: Nic Berry
Assistant Ref 1: Jordan Way Assistant Ref 2: Aaron Pook
TMO: James Leckie