Reds predicted team: Thorn's side sweat on locks, JOC for Hurricanes opener as Petaia set for 15 role

By Christy Doran / Editor

Brad Thorn isn’t about to put the boots back on, but the Queensland Reds are sweating on the fitness of a couple of their locks as well as playmaker James O’Connor ahead of their Super Rugby opener against the Hurricanes in Townsville.

With Angus Blyth on the mend from a syndesmosis injury, the Reds are hoping that Ryan Smith (shoulder) and Luke Jones (neck) return in time for their crunch match in North Queensland. The duo are considered outside chances to run out against their trans-Tasman rivals.

The locks aren’t the only cause for concern for the Reds, with O’Connor slowly making his way back from ankle surgery.

While fullback Jock Campbell, who is likely to pop up at 10 during the year too, is also expected to miss the opening round, as he too recovers from an ankle injury suffered against Scotland during last year’s Spring Tour.

Jordan Petaia is expected to start at fullback against the Hurricanes in the absence of Jock Campbell. Photo: Chris Hyde/Getty Images

But it’s not all doom and gloom for the Reds, who of course are without Taniela Tupou for the season, with Thorn’s side possessing one of the best hottest backlines in Super Rugby and a back-row with plenty to prove.

Even up front the Reds have something to offer, with Fijian international Peni Ravai the buy of the Super Rugby season.

How Thorn configures his backline will be fascinating, particularly when everyone is fit.

For now, Thorn will be sweating on O’Connor’s fitness.

The 32-year-old might have been cut adrift by Dave Rennie during last year’s Rugby Championship, but the playmaker has been one of Australia’s best performers in Super Rugby since returning ahead of the 2019 World Cup.

Fortunately his absence last year allowed for Lawson Creighton to spend some much needed time in the saddle.

The versatile back is likely to step into the playmaking role should O’Connor be ruled out while Tom Lynagh is expected to receive some game time this year.

James O’Connor is racing the clock to be fit for round one but the Reds have at least got game time into their deputy Lawson Creighton. Photo: Paul Kane/Getty Images

Just as they were last year, Lynagh’s silky skills were on display throughout the trial matches but there remains some concern about whether he can physically stand up to the rigours of Super Rugby at this stage of his burgeoning career.

Isaac Henry could start in the midfield at some stage throughout the season, but for now Hunter Paisami and Josh Flook shape as one of the most exciting centre combinations in Australia.

Flook has the ability to play on the wing too, which could allow Henry to start in the centres if anything happens to Thorn’s flying wingers.

Out wide Jordan Petaia is expected to start at fullback given Campbell’s injury, while there is plenty of speed and power in Suliasi Vunivalu and Filipo Daugunu.

Vunivalu has been a conspicuous absence for the Reds thus far, but he is just the physical presence that will have Eddie Jones licking his lips about.

Harry Wilson will be hoping a new Wallabies structure has him back in the frame for the World Cup. Photo: Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images

In the back-row, Harry Wilson has an opportunity to explode back into the reckoning after a coaching change at the Wallabies.

While Rob Valetini had been Rennie’s preferred No.8, Wilson remains one of the most exciting loose forwards in Australian rugby and his combination with Tate McDermott and Fraser McReight is salivating.

Given the injury crisis in the second-row, Liam Wright might have to shift into the second-row alongside Seru Uru.

Up front, Sef Fa’agase is likely to start up front alongside Dane Zander, while Zane Nonggorr and Raval, who was a late pick-up from Clermont, should provide great back-up.

Matt Faessler is shaping to start ahead of Richie Asiata at hooker in the absence of the injured Josh Nasser.

One thing is for certain, the Reds need to aim up against New Zealand opposition for more Queenslanders to feature for the Wallabies at the World Cup.

While Queensland fans liked to cry foul last year when some of their stars were dropped, the reality is they came off a season where they didn’t beat New Zealand opposition once. In two years, the record stand 1-9.

Of course, there are reasons for that – injury to key players and form – but the Reds know they must improve against their rivals across the ditch to go deep in the Super Rugby competition and, indeed, feature prominently for the Wallabies.

Jones’ subtle selection clue ahead of the Super Rugby launch in Sydney was telling.

“Now the other thing about Super Rugby, the games against the Crusaders or the games against whoever the next strongest New Zealand side is, they’re important selection games,” he said.

“Because that’s where we’ll see the level of the players and of course the local derbies.”

Here is our predicted Reds side to take on the Hurricanes:

15: Jordan Petaia

14: Suliasi Vunivalu

13: Josh Flook

12: Hunter Paisami

11: Filipo Daugunu

10: James O’Connor

9: Tate McDermott

8: Harry Wilson

7: Fraser McReight

6: Liam Wright

5: Ryan Smith

4: Seru Uru

3: Sef Fa’agase

2: Matt Faessler

1: Dane Zander


Richie Asiata, Peni Raval, Zane Nonggorr, Lopeti Faifua, Connor Anderson, Kalani Thomas, Lawson Creighton, Isaac Henry  

The Crowd Says:



Roar Rookie

Daugunu is a great kicker, he has been a goal kicker! But he is more likely to run it.



Roar Rookie

Crazy how the Reds loose 4 looks! Also no C. 'My' Vest? Reds gone from one of the deepest locking groups to two makeshift second rowers!????????



Roar Rookie

Does that mean we’re only playing with 9 guys?!



Roar Rookie

And yet now he has. Ha!



Roar Rookie

You could be Wright Olly. McReight is yesterdays 7, let’s move on. Doubt whether Big Bad Brad will see it that way tho


Train Without A Station

Roar Guru

So not test matches…



Roar Rookie

Phewwwww Rodda is injured again. McKellar is going. Tupou is heading to the Rebels. I see Petaia in a headline pic and I panic! Phew. Very interested to see how he goes at 15.


Pisda Chastna

Roar Rookie

I'm talking about the Reds champ.FFS



Roar Rookie

I would change the backrow. The game has moved on from this type of backrow. 6. Seru Uru 7. Liam Wright 8. Harry Wilson


John Ferguson


You didn't say pack. you said locks? Which is what I was replying to but I now see you meant backrow, which in any case it would go Brumbies, Tahs, Reds, Rebels, Force. Only one of the Red's backrow that showed up at test level and performed, McReight. Almost the whole Brumbies, Tahs backrow played big minutes. I'm not anti-reds in the slightest, just stating the facts.


The Ferret

Roar Rookie

how did those packs go last year against the reds?


John Ferguson


I have to disagree. With all players fit, it would go Brumbies, Rebels, split between Reds/Force, then Tahs.


The Ferret

Roar Rookie

Hi Tooly - We need to hang out as you are smoking some wicked stuff. Creighton was a very handy sub when he played in the outside backs off the bench. It was not until he was thrown head first to the kiwis at 10 that he did not look the business. As for Flook.... that kid is all class and has been for the past 2 seasons. He was out most of last season anyway. Lynah is not that far off and I would expect him to make some showings off the bench this season. I'd like to see him put some weight on, but skill wise and game reading wise he is about where he needs to be.


The Ferret

Roar Rookie

"Julian Savae is no slouch" - Agreed but he is a shadow of the bus he was.


The Ferret

Roar Rookie

When our Lock stocks are back from injury we are not that week. Best back row in Australia when all 3 are fit


The Ferret

Roar Rookie

I think it is a size issue for Tom vs and age thing. He makes Damian Mckenzie look like a monster.


The Ferret

Roar Rookie

Rennie's packs were beaten hard by the poms and the Argies. Wallabies were on the back foot and White just shoveled the poor ball he received to the 10. Don't blame the 10 for having a bad game when there is no foundation for him to play off.


The Ferret

Roar Rookie

I have! In reality only Cooper has played well at 10 with White at 9. I believe this is because of the game plan. Cooper does not care about the game plan and just goes out and plays the footy he plays. He demands the ball from white when he wants it. The others won't or simply cant command that from White.


John Ferguson


Are you serious? The tactics will remain if that is the case just the threat will be dulled, but Julian Savae is no slouch.


John Ferguson


I should have been more specific, very harsh on Flook, and as far as Lynagh is a concerned, I think Tooly can eat his words on that one haha, I didn’t see that coming at all. He played really well in the trials and Lawson didn’t sell it to me last year but I would still expect LLawson but I’m keen to see Lynagh get his debut. Goodluck

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