QR Reds hooker Sean Hardman will become the first to play 100 Super Rugby games for Queensland when he runs on against the Bulls in Pretoria this weekend, while lock Adam Byrnes will achieve his ambition of an Investec Super 14 debut.
The Reds Website reports that Hardman’s milestone comes 10 years after his first Super Rugby appearance against the Highlanders in 2000, while Sydney-born Byrnes gets his opportunity after serving a professional rugby apprenticeship in Ireland and with the Waratahs.
Byrnes, who moved to Brisbane late last year in pursuit of his goal, is one of seven new Queensland caps in the squad of 22 announced today by Head Coach Phil Mooney.
Byrnes has been named at lock, with former All Black and Blues flanker Daniel Braid also selected to earn his first Reds cap.
The prospective new caps on the bench are twin brothers Anthony and Saia Faingaa, former Sydney prop Laurie Weeks, teenage lock Robert Simmons and recent rugby league convert Mark McLinden.
Scrumhalf Ben Lucas was chosen to start the match ahead of close rival Will Genia, on the strength of his goal kicking prowess.
Outside centre Morgan Turinui has succumbed to a shoulder problem and has been replaced by the tough tackling Charlie Fetoai.
Mooney said Turinui had been favouring the shoulder in all three trial matches so selectors opted to rest him for the Bulls match and give Fetoai the opportunity, now that he’s recovered from a knee injury sustained in the Reds opening trial match against the Waratahs.
The Reds will take the field without Wallaby Hugh McMeniman, who has flown back to Australia due to an illness in his family.
Mooney said selectors had to make some tough decisions when naming the side – especially splitting the scrumhalves Lucas and Genia.
“Halfback was a hard call – Will (Genia) has made the most of every opportunity he’s been given and the decision could easily have gone the other way. However Benny’s goal kicking just got him across the line this time.”
Mooney said selectors also thought long and hard about resting Turinui.
“We could have played him but he’s been favouring the shoulder all through the trials and there’s a long way to go in this competition. Charlie will do a good job in the role.”
Hardman has 124 caps for Queensland and is one of 25 Queensland centurions, but will be the first to wear the red jersey in 100 Super Rugby games. Fullback Chris Latham played a total of 109 Super Rugby games, but 10 of those were for NSW before he moved north.
“It’s a wonderful achievement for Sean and whilst there are no easy positions in a rugby team, I guess there is a little more merit in the fact that he is a front rower,” Mooney said.
“Sean, as a credit to him, prepares very well and that’s why he’s been able to string together such a long career.
“We’re all extremely pleased for him that he now reaches this milestone.”
The Reds team is:
1 Greg Holmes (Sunnybank)
2 Sean Hardman (Brothers)
3 Dayna Edwards (Sunnybank)
4 Van Humphries (Souths)
5 Adam Byrnes (University)
6 Scott Higginbotham (Wests)
7 Daniel Braid (Sunshine Coast Stingrays)
8 Leroy Houston (Norths)
9 Ben Lucas (Sunnybank)
10 Quade Cooper (Souths)
11 Brando Va’aulu (Sunnybank)
12 Berrick Barnes (c) (Wests)
13 Charlie Fetoai (Sunnybank)
14 Digby Ioane (Sunnybank)
15 Peter Hynes (GPS)
16 Saia Faingaa (Souths)
17 Laurie Weeks (University)
18 Robert Simmons (Sunybank)
19 Poutasi Luafutu (Wests)
20 Will Genia (Norths)
21 Anthony Faingaa (Souths)
22 Mark McLinden (Sunnybank)