The Queensland Reds and Melbourne Rebels have named their teams for this weekend’s qualifying final in Brisbane, with Dave Wessels opting for the surprise tactic of picking two openside flankers.
Both Brad Wilkin and Richard Hardwick will start in the back row in an attempt to counter the on-ball abilities of Reds pair Liam Wright and Fraser McReight.
“We definitely picked two sevens to put some pressure on the ball ourselves but obviously Brad Wilkin’s is playing really well, and Dickie Hardwick probably had the best game I’ve ever seen him play last week,” Rebels coach Wessels said.
“So, it’s very hard not to pick those guys – I think it’s a case of them almost deserving selection, as much as it is a tactical decision.”
The Rebels also welcome back Andrew Kellaway, who replaces Tom Pincus on the wing, while Sydney University scrumhalf Theo Strang coming onto the bench as backup for starting no.9 Frank Lomani after James Tuttle sustained a hamstring injury in last week’s win over the Force.
Rob Leota and Campbell Magnay are the other additions to the 23, both of whom will come off the bench.
There are no surprises in the Reds’ side, with Brad Thorn naming the same starting XV which comprehensively outplayed the Brumbies last week.
The only changes to the Queensland squad are amongst the reserve front-rowers, where hooker Alex Mafi returns from a hamstring injury in place of Josh Nasser and Jack Straker replaces fellow tighthead Ruan Smith.
Queensland Reds vs Melbourne Rebels
Saturday, 7:15pm (AEST), Suncorp Stadium Reds 1. Harry Hoopert, 2. Brandon Paenga-Amosa, 3. Taniela Tupou, 4. Angus Blyth, 5. Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, 6. Liam Wright (c), 7. Fraser McReight, 8. Harry Wilson, 9. Tate McDermott, 10. James O’Connor, 11. Filipo Daugunu, 12. Hamish Stewart, 13. Jordan Petaia, 14. Chris Feauai-Sautia, 15. Jock Campbell
Bench: 16. Alex Mafi, 17. JP Smith, 18. Jack Straker, 19. Tuaina Taii Tualima, 20. Angus Scott-Young, 21. Moses Sorovi, 22. Bryce Hegarty, 23. Hunter Paisami
Rebels 1. Cameron Orr, 2. Jordan Uelese, 3. Jermaine Ainsley, 4. Matt Philip, 5. Trevor Hosea, 6. Brad Wilkin, 7. Richard Hardwick, 8. Isi Naisarani, 9. Frank Lomani, 10. Matt To’omua, 11. Marika Koroibete, 12. Bill Meakes, 13. Reece Hodge, 14. Andrew Kellaway, 15. Dane Haylett-Petty (c)
Bench: 16. Efitusi Maafu, 17. Cabous Eloff, 18. Matt Gibbon, 19. Michael Stolberg, 20. Rob Leota, 21. Theo Strang, 22. Andrew Deegan, 23. Campbell Magnay