Reds make three changes for opener

The Reds have named their side to take on Western Force in the opening round of the 2016 Super Rugby competition on Saturday.

Head coach Richard Graham has made three changes to the side which played the Brumbies in a trial match two weeks ago – with injuries forcing two of those.

Flankers Lolo Fakaosilea (hamstring) and Liam Gill (lower back) were not considered for selection due to injury. Fakaosilea suffered a ruptured hamstring tendon against the Brumbies, while recent scans revealed Gill had suffered a stress fracture in his lower back which will force him out for four weeks.

The side features two Super Rugby debutants in the starting line-up, with a further two on the bench. While all four are new to Super Rugby, they have all built up their experience in the lead up to this opportunity.

Starting at inside centre, Henry Taefu spent last season in the centres for Brisbane City in the NRC, where he built a combination alongside four of his teammates in the backline at the Reds.

Starting winger Eto Nabuli grew up playing Rugby in his homeland of Fiji and spent the last three seasons in the NRL where he was a potent threat out wide.

While he has never played Super Rugby, reserve full-back Ayumu Goromaru has played more than 50 Tests, including four at last year’s Rugby World Cup where he was key to Japan’s success.

Reserve lock Ben Matwijow is also likely to make his Super Rugby debut on Saturday, having joined the Reds shortly after claiming an ITM Cup championship with Canterbury.

Graham said: “We’ve put in a lot of hard work as a group over the last three and a half months building a physical foundation, developing our game play and coming together as a squad. 

“We’ve spent the pre-season focused very much on ourselves and what we want to get out of the new season. This Saturday is our first opportunity to demonstrate that and the squad are looking forward to the occasion down in Sydney this weekend.

“While we have four guys making their Super Rugby debut on Saturday, they come with varying experience that has served them well to this point.”

Reds: 15 Karmichael Hunt, 14 Chris Feauai-Sautia, 13 Samu Kerevi, 12 Henry Taefu, 11 Eto Nabuli, 10 Jake McIntyre, 9 Nick Frisby, 8 Jake Schatz, 7 Curtis Browning, 6 Hendrik Tui, 5 Rob Simmons(c), 4 Cadeyrn Neville, 3 Greg Holmes, 2 Saia Fainga’a, 1 Ben Daley   
Replacements: 16 Andrew Ready, 17 Sef Fa’agase, 18 Sam Talakai, 19 Ben Matwijow, 20 Michael Gunn, 21 Scott Gale, 22 Sam Greene, 23 Ayumu Goromaru

Date: Saturday, February 27
Venue: Allianz Stadium, Sydney
Kick-off: 19:45 local (08:45 GMT)
Referee: Angus Gardner (Australia)
Assistant Referees: Nicholas Berry (Australia), James Leckie (Australia)
TMO: George Ayoub (Australia)