The reeling Reds have received a welcome boost of attacking firepower with wingers Jordan Petaia and Suliasi Vunivalu cleared to make their returns for Friday’s crucial Super Rugby clash with the Highlanders in Brisbane.
Queensland has lost its last two games against Kiwi opponents and is likely to be without star prop Taniela Tupou (calf) for the rest of the season.
Brad Thorn’s side is also missing injured five-eighth James O’Connor and center Hunter Paisami but Petaia and Vunivalu somewhat offset those losses.
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Meanwhile, the surging Waratahs have confirmed that Wallabies captain Michael Hooper will miss round 12 with concussion.
The more-than-capable Charlie Gamble will take Hooper’s No.7 jersey while prop Archer Holz replaces Harry Johnson-Holmes (knee), who is likely to miss the rest of the Super Rugby season.
“Archer has been building his match experience and exposure to Super Rugby, so it’s going to be a really good test for him,” Waratahs coach Darren Coleman said.
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BLUES vs REBELS, Friday 5.05pm AEST in Auckland
BLUES (15-1): Zarn Sullivan, Mark Telea, Rieko Ioane, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Caleb Clarke, Stephen Perofeta, Finlay Christie, Hoskins Sotutu, Dalton Papalii (c), Akira Ioane, Tom Robinson, James Tucker, Ofa Tuungafasi, Kurt Eklund, Jordan Lay
Reservations: Soane Vikena, Karl Tu’inukuafe, Nepo Laulala, Sam Darry, Adrian Choat, Sam Nock, Bryce Heem, AJ Lam
REBELS (15-1): Reece Hodge, Andrew Kellaway, Lukas Ripley, Stacey Ili, George Worth, Carter Gordon, Joe Powell, Rob Leota, Richard Hardwick, Brad Wilkin, Josh Canham, Matt Philip (c), Pone Fa’amausili, James Hanson, Matt Gibbon
Reservations: Efi Ma’afu, Cameron Orr, Cabous Eloff, Daniel Maiava, Tamati Ioane, Moses Sorovi, Nick Jooste, Glen Vaihu
Sean Maloney and Andrew Mehrtens are joined by Morgan Turinui in a special episode from Marvel Stadium. They talk upcoming Wallabies fixtures, Super Rugby Pacific and start the backline for the Weird Cat XV
REDS vs HIGHLANDERS, Friday 7.45pm AEST in Brisbane
REDS (15-1): Jock Campbell, Suliasi Vunivalu, Josh Flook, Hamish Stewart, Jordan Petaia, Lawson Creighton, Tate McDermott (c), Harry Wilson, Fraser McReight, Seru Uru, Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, Ryan Smith, Feao Fotuaika, Richie Asiata, Harry Hoopert
Reservations: Matt Faessler, Dane Zander, Albert Anae, Angus Blyth, Angus Scott-Young, Spencer Jeans, Filipo Daugunu, Mac Grealy
HIGHLANDERS (15-1): Connor Garden-Bachop, Sam Gilbert, Thomas Umaga-Jensen, Fetuli Paea, Scott Gregory, Mitch Hunt, Aaron Smith (co-c), Marino Mikaele-Tu’u, Billy Harmon, James Lentjes (co-c), Josh Dickson , Bryn Evans, Jermaine Ainsley, Liam Coltman, Ethan de Groot
Reservations: Rhys Marshall, Daniel Lienert-Brown, Saula Mau, Max Hicks, Hugh Renton, Folau Fakatava, Marty Banks, Mosese Dawai
MOANA PASIFIKA vs WARATAHS, Saturday 2.35pm AEST in Auckland
MOANA PASIFIKA (TBC)
WARATAHS (15-1): Alex Newsome, Mark Nawaqanitawase, Izaia Perese, Lalakai Foketi, Dylan Pietsch, Tane Edmed, Jake Gordon (c), Rahboni Warren-Vosayaco, Charlie Gamble, Will Harris, Geoff Cridge, Jed Holloway, Archer Holz, Dave Porecki, Angus Bell
Reservations: Tom Horton, Teterta Faulkner, Ruan Smith, Hugh Sinclair, Langi Gleeson, Jack Grant, Ben Donaldson, Triston Reilly
Valetini wins classic foot race
CHIEFS vs BRUMBIES, Saturday 5.05pm AEST in Hamilton
BRUMBIES (15-1): Tom Banks, Tom Wright, Len Ikitau, Irae Simone, Andy Muirhead, Noah Lolesio, Nic White (c), Pete Samu, Jahrome Brown, Rob Valetini, Caderyn Neville, Darcy Swain, Sefo Kautai, Folau Fainga’a, James Slipper
Reservations: Billy Pollard, Scott Sio, Allan Alaalatoa, Nick Frost, Tom Hooper, Rory Scott, Ryan Lonergan, Ollie Sapsford
Mataele punishes undermanned Blues
FORCE vs CRUSADERS, Saturday 7.45pm AEST in Perth
STRENGTH (15-1): Jake Strachan, Byron Ralston, Kyle Godwin, Bayley Kuenzle, Manasa Mataele, Reesjan Pasitoa, Issak Fines-Leleiwasa, Tim Anstee, Ollie Callan, Fergus Lee-Warner, Izack Rodda, Ryan McCauley, Santiago Medrano, Feleti Kaitu’u, Tom Robertson
Reservations: Andrew Ready, Angus Wagner, Bo Abra, Jeremy Thrush, Alex Masibaka, Ian Prior, Jake McIntyre, Richard Kahui
CRUSADERS (15-1): Will Jordan, George Bridge, Braydon Ennor, David Havili (c), Leicester Fainga’anuku, Richie Mo’unga, Mitchell Drummond, Cullen Grace, Ethan Blackadder, Pablo Matera, Sam Whitelock, Zach Gallagher, Oli Jager, Ricky Jackson, Tamaiti williams
Reservations: George Bell, Finlay Brewis, Fletcher Newell, Dominic Gardiner, Sione Havili Talitui, Bryn Hall, Fergus Burke, Chay Fihaki
Drua’s spine-tingling Na Bole challenge
HURRICANES vs DRUA, Sunday 1.35pm AEST in Wellington
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Australian rugby greats share classic stories and relive major controversies on Stan Sport’s Glory Days series
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