THE Reds have ensured heavy involvement from Wallabies winger Sefa Naivalu in their clash against the Stormers on Friday night after naming him at outside centre for Friday’s clash at Suncorp Stadium.
With Chris Feauai-Sautia still sidelined with a hamstring tweak, Naivalu will shift into the centres to partner captain Samu Kerevi, who will wear the no.12 jersey.
Young gun Jack Hardy, who made his Super Rugby debut off the bench earlier this season, will make his first start on the wing.
Attack coach Jim Mackay said moving Kerevi back to inside centre gave the Reds a good platform to get on the front foot against the Stormers.
“And then you’ve got Sefa there, who’s played a lot of 13 as well, firstly at Wallabies and in NRC he had a season there as well,” Mackay said.
“Just with the team we’re playing, that will give us a lot of stability in defence to stop them getting over the advantage line and in attack as well it gives us some real power for go-forward rugby.
“And Jack’s earnt his opportunity there.”
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Naivalu has been good in patches for the Reds but there has been some criticism of his limited involvement and reticence to go looking for work.
The shift will force him to become more involved.
“The more he gets the ball, the better for us,” Mackay said.
“Samu’s ability to play through the line and then you’ve got Sefa on his shoulder, we’re excited about that opportunity as well.
“Moving Sefa in, he hopefully gets more touches of the ball.
“This year, we’ve seemed to play our best rugby when we’ve had two more strong, direct carriers there.
“We’re coming up against a team that has big, strong centres and big backrowers, so while it’s not always an attack-focused mindset, there’s considerations around defence as well.”
Feauai-Sautia has a history of hamstring injuries and while his absence this week, and from last Saturday’s clash against the Rebels was due to tightness than a tear, resting him is a calculated move to have him available for the upcoming tour of South Africa where Kerevi is likely to be rested.
“He’ll come away with us to South Africa, so we didn’t want to risk him for this game,” Mackay said.
Backrower Angus Scott-Young has also been ruled out with concussion after suffering a head knock in the loss to the Rebels.
His omission forces a shuffle in the pack, with Harry Hockings coming off the bench to start at lock and Lukhan Salakaia-Loto shifting into to the backrow.
With no.8 Caleb Timu suspended at a hearing earlier this week after being sent off for punching in a Queensland Premier Rugby match, Bond University’s Angus Blyth comes into the 23 to provide backrow cover.
“It does stretch things but at the same time, that’s opportunities for others,” Mackay said.
“We’re fortunate that Lukhan can play equally well in the second row or backrow, so he shifts to the backrow and Hockings comes up which gives us good lineout presence as well.
Mackay said Scott-Young was close to playing but his omission was a precaution.
“He could have played at a pinch with another day or two but with a head injury, we’re just looking after his welfare.
“And he’ll be coming with us to South Africa and we’ll need everyone over there.”
The Reds take on the Stormers at Suncorp Stadium on Friday, April 5, kicking off at 7pm local (8pm AEDT), broadcast LIVE on FOX SPORTS and via RUGBY.com.au RADIO.
Reds to face Stormers
1. JP Smith – GPS
2. Brandon Paenga-Amosa – Sunnybank
3. Ruan Smith – GPS
4. Izack Rodda – Easts
5. Harry Hockings – University of Queensland
6. Lukhan Salakaia-Loto – Souths
7. Liam Wright – Easts
8. Scott Higginbotham – Wests
9. Tate McDermott – University of Queensland
10. Bryce Hegarty – GPS
11. Jack Hardy – Easts
12. Samu Kerevi (c) – Souths
13. Sefa Naivalu – Norths
14. Filipo Daugunu – Wests
15. Hamish Stewart – Bond University
16. Alex Mafi – Bond University
17. Harry Hoopert – Brothers
18. Taniela Tupou – Brothers
19. Angus Blyth – Bond University
20. Fraser McReight – Brothers
21. Moses Sorovi – Wests
22. Duncan Paia’aua – Norths
23. Isaac Lucas – Sunnybank