James O’Connor will start at flyhalf for the Reds in their Super Rugby AU opener against the Waratahs in Brisbane on Friday.
O’Connor will form the halfback axis with Tate McDermott, with Hunter Paisami and Hamish Stewart combining in the midfield, and fullback Bryce Hegarty forming the back three with wings Jock Campbell and Filipo Daugunu.
In the forward pack, captain Liam Wright and Fraser McReight are the starting flanks for the Reds. Harry Wilson has overcome a torn MCL and will pack down at No 8 to complete the back row.
Angus Blyth will partner Lukhan Salakaia-Loto in the second row, while Brandon Paenga-Amosa has recovered from an ankle injury to take his spot in the front row alongside Harry Hoopert and Taniela Tupou.
‘We’re pumped to be back playing rugby again this week,’ said Reds coach Brad Thorn.
‘We’ve been in a moment of history – 100 years since the Spanish flu. It’s been a tough four months, but as group – both players and staff – we’ve worked hard for each other and adapted to the challenges.
‘It doesn’t get any better than playing the Waratahs in the season opener. Queensland versus New South Wales – there’s plenty of tradition there. It’s a great rivalry and we look forward to continuing that on Friday night.
‘As a club, we continue to bring young talent through our academy and also through club footy. It’s great to see Tuaina Taii and Josh Flook named in the match 23. They’ve worked hard and we congratulate them on this achievement.’
Reds – 15 Bryce Hegarty, 14 Jock Campbell, 13 Hunter Paisami, 12 Hamish Stewart, 11 Filipo Daugunu, 10 James O’Connor, 9 Tate McDermott, 8 Harry Wilson, 7 Fraser McReight, 6 Liam Wright (c), 5 Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, 4 Angus Blyth, 3 Taniela Tupou, 2 Brandon Paenga-Amosa, 1 Harry Hoopert.
Subs: 16 Alex Mafi, 17 JP Smith, 18 Josh Nasser, 19 Tuaina Taii Tualima, 20 Angus Scott-Young, 21 Scott Malolua, 22 Chris Feauai-Sautia, 23 Josh Flook.
Photo: Tracey Nearmy/Getty Images