Hunt starts at 10 for Reds against Brumbies

Queensland Reds head coach Richard Graham has named his team to play the Brumbies in their Super Rugby season opener with Karmichael Hunt starting at 10.

New signing Karmichael Hunt goes straight into the Reds starting line up and is also named vice captain after impressing in the position in the pre-season trials.

Hunt’s opportunity to play at ten comes as a result of Quade Cooper fracturing his shoulder in pre-season training ruling him out for three months.

The season opening squad features Lachie Turner returning from injury to play his first game in 2015 and scrumhalf Will Genia playing his 100th Super Rugby game, after already earning his 100th cap for Queensland in 2014.

Seven players stand to make their Super Rugby debut for Queensland.

On debut in the starting lineup are prop Sam Talakai, lock Marco Kotze and flyhalf Karmichael Hunt, along with prop Sef Faagase, flanker Adam Korczyk, flyhalf Duncan Paia’aua and winger Campbell Magnay on the bench.

Graham congratulated the players for their hard work in the lead up to the competition.

“The forwards have performed strongly in the two pre-season games. Whilst Sam Talakai, Marco Kotze, Sef Faagase and Adam Korczyk are making their debuts at this level, I have confidence in their abilities. Slipper, Fainga’a, Horwill, Schatz, Gill and Hanson all have plenty of experience at this level and they will ensure the new lads go into the contest well prepared. It’ll be a collective effort.”

“I thought Hunt controlled the game well last week and had earned the opportunity to start in the flyhalf jersey. He has the confidence and support of the entire team. We all know what he is capable of and his experience at the highest level in multiple codes has set him up well for his Super Rugby debut.

“Duncan Paia’aua responded well in the Crusaders match after a difficult experience in Cairns where the conditions were extremely humid. He demonstrated some resilience and the playing group were all pleased for him knowing what he is capable of. Campbell Magnay continues to grow in confidence with every game, whether it was NRC or now in the Super Rugby pre-season matches. He is a big kid for an 18-year-old and is an incredible athlete.”

Unavailable for selection due to injury are Quade Cooper (collar bone), Anthony Fainga’a (knee), Greg Holmes (thumb), Dave McDuling (glute), Eddie Quirk (knee), Beau Robinson (calf), Rob Simmons (shoulder) and Ben Tapuai (hamstring).

James O’Connor and Adam Thomson have not been considered for selection as neither have had enough time to prove their fitness ahead of Round 1.

“There has been some disruption with injuries but every team faces the same challenges in pre-season. We look back with confidence on the quality and volume of work we have done and what we control this week leading into the game, our preparation and our attitude.”

“James O’Connor is a day or two shy of being available for selection. He has worked hard to be ready but the medical staff felt it was best to bring him back next week.

“Unfortunately two bouts of illness have not allowed him to consistently get the running loads into his legs after suffering a knee injury in his last match in France. He has been involved in a lot of our sessions and kicking goals but I felt it was best not to risk him in the first game of the season.”

“Thomson is in a similar situation. He joined us late in our preparation and has carried a bit of a shoulder complaint in the last couple of weeks. He is the 24th man for the squad this Friday and my preference is to give him another week to ensure he doesn’t carry the injury any further.”

While conditions promise to be testing in Canberra, Graham said his side always looked forward to the traditional derby.

“We have begun the last four or five seasons down in Canberra. It has become a traditional fixture and all are comparable in nature. Forward orientated, physical, strong field position games with close results. We have prepared for a similar contest and looking at the expected weather conditions may not be disappointed.”

“We are very much looking forward to the start of Super Rugby. I’ve thrown a lot of change and challenges at the collective squad and the response has been fantastic. They have all contributed to a strong pre-season, the trials provided us with a clear reference of where we are at and now we move into the competition phase.”

Earlier this week Reds prop Ben Daley announced his ‘Be Great, Do Good’ campaign, in which he will support a different charity every week by wearing unique headgear to raise awareness and funds for their cause.

This week Daley will wear headgear in support of Heart Kids and its annual Sweetheart Day – a national event held on Valentine’s Day, coinciding with International Congenital Heart Disease Day. All proceeds go towards funding vital medical research as well as improving the lives of Aussie kids with childhood heart disease.

Queensland Reds

1. James Slipper (C) , 2. Saia Fainga’a , 3. Sam Talakai * , 4. James Horwill , 5. Marco Kotze * , 6. Curtis Browning , 7. Liam Gill , 8. Jake Schatz , 9. Will Genia , 10. Karmichael Hunt (VC) * , 11. Lachie Turner , 12. Samu Kerevi , 13. Chris Feauai-Sautia , 14. Chris Kuridrani , 15. Jamie-Jerry Taulagi

16. James Hanson , 17. Ben Daley , 18. Sef Faagase * , 19. Ed O’Donoghue , 20. Adam Korczyk * , 21. Nick Frisby , 22. Duncan Paia’aua * , 23. Campbell Magnay *

(* Reds/Super Rugby debut)

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