As expected Wallaby and Reds lock Hugh McMeniman has been returned to the team to play the Cheetahs in a Super 14 Round Three match at Suncorp Stadium on Sunday, along with scrumhalf Ben Lucas.
McMeniman missed the opening rounds in South Africa due to a serious family illness, but has put his hand up to play in Sunday’s crucial match.
A strong performance against the Stormers off the bench by Lucas, along with his goal-kicking ability, has earned him a start ahead of Will Genia.
The experiment of playing Test wing Digby Ioane at outside centre will be repeated against the Cheetahs, after the powerful runner made a good fist of the role at short notice when Charlie Fetoai (shoulder) was forced to pull out of the Round Two match against the Stormers.
Fetoai will play for a strong Reds second XV in the curtain raiser against the Junior Waratahs.
The players with injury concerns – captain and inside centre Berrick Barnes (corked thigh), hooker Sean Hardman (Achilles tendon) and wing Peter Hynes (knee) – were all expected to play.
Reds head coach Phil Mooney said McMeniman was a welcome addition to the forward pack against a tough and abrasive Cheetahs side.
“We won’t be under-estimating the Cheetahs on Sunday, they’re a side with a lot of ability that hasn’t had much luck in starting the season – which is something we have in common. But if our players focus on doing the little things well for the whole game we have the speed and the talent to play a very entertaining and effective style of rugby.”
Mooney is also relishing a rare opportunity for some family-friendly “Sunday afternoon footy”, in what is an unusual time slot for the Super 14 tournament.
“I’m sure there are a lot of people like me who, as kids, enjoyed watching Queensland play rugby on a Sunday afternoon. This is the chance for them to give their own kids a treat, with a double header of two great games – the second XV playing the Junior Waratahs and then the Reds taking on the Cheetahs.”
Reds: 15 Mark McLinden, 14 Brando Va’aulu, 13 Digby Ioane, 12 Berrick Barnes (captain), 11 Peter Hynes, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Ben Lucas, 8 Leroy Houston, 7 Daniel Braid, 6 Scott Higginbotham, 5 Hugh McMeniman, 4 Van Humphries, 3 Laurie Weeks, 2 Sean Hardman, 1 Greg Holmes.
Replacements: 16 Saia Faingaa, 17 Dayna Edwards, 18 Adam Byrnes, 19 Poutasi Luafutu, 20 Will Genia, 21 Anthony Faingaa, 22 Blair Connor.
Date: Sunday, March 1
Venue: Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
Kick-off: 16.00 (06.00 GMT)
Referee: Ian Smith (Australia)
Touch judges: Paul Marks (Australia), Stephen Hill (Australia)
TMO: Steve Leszczynski (Australia)