The Reds are fast approaching a win-or-bust scenario as they look to beat the Brumbies in Brisbane on Friday.
Falling at home to the in-form Force last weekend was an unexpected blow for the Queensland outfit and one that's dented their conference aspirations. Currently they sit six points adrift of the Brumbies but also separating them from Australia's summit are the Waratahs and Force, so one sees the necessity in not losing this game. A side note is that the Force host the Tahs in Perth on Saturday in another crucial derby showdown.
The Brumbies will be a difficult proposition at Suncorp Stadium and the return of Stephen Moore is a boost to coaches Stephen Larkham and Laurie Fisher. It was expected that the Wallabies hooker's absence last week against the Blues would cost them dear, but the New Zealand side were way off the pace as the Brumbies cruised.
Richard Graham's outfit will be much tougher opposition and on Brisbane soil – where the Reds seem to lift their performances – Moore, Ben Mowen and company will have to hit the ground running in their usual fashion but then also weather the inevitable home barrage.
Leading that will, of course, be Will Genia and Quade Cooper, who will have a new centre starting outside them as Anthony Fainga'a comes in for Mike Harris. Harris is bracketed on the bench as he struggles with Achilles tendon soreness.
That is one of two changes to the starting line-up as Chris Feauai-Sautia returns on the wing while on the bench Saia Fainga'a waits for his 100th appearance in Super Rugby (having made 27 for Friday's opposition) after his century has been delayed due to injury.
Moore's return for the Brumbies is one of three changes made by the visitors as Scott Sio is also back a prop while 19-year-old lock Tom Staniforth comes in for his Super Rugby debut alongside Scott Fardy. The timeframe of Sam Carter's knee injury has not been confirmed.
On paper this result is very much in the balance as the likes of James Horwill and Pat McCabe are in good form for their respective sides – McCabe looking superb of late but may not get much joy from one of the best defenders in Fainga'a this Friday. Stopping McCabe's momentum in midfield and the running threat of Jesse Mogg and Robbie Coleman early on will be crucial for the Reds. If the home side do that, they will have the patience to prevail.
Reds – 15 Ben Lucas, 14 Rod Davies, 13 Ben Tapuai, 12 Anthony Fainga'a, 11 Chris Feauai-Sautia, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia, 8 Jake Schatz, 7 Beau Robinson, 6 Eddie Quirk, 5 James Horwill (c), 4 Rob Simmons, 3 Greg Holmes, 2 James Hanson, 1 James Slipper.
Subs: 16 Saia Fainga'a, 17 Albert Anae, 18 Jono Owen, 19 Ed O'Donoghue, 20 Curtis Browning, 21 Nick Frisby, 22 Mike Harris/Dave McDuling, 23 Jamie-Jerry Taulagi.
Brumbies – 15 Jesse Mogg, 14 Joe Tomane, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Pat McCabe, 11 Robbie Coleman, 10 Matt Toomua, 9 Nic White, 8 Ben Mowen (c), 7 Jarrad Butler, 6 Jordan Smiler, 5 Tom Staniforth, 4 Scott Fardy, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 Scott Sio.
Subs: 16 Siliva Silva, 17 Ruan Smith, 18 JP Smith, 19 Jack Whetton, 20 Lachlan McCaffrey, 21 Michael Dowsett, 22 Andrew Smith, 23 Christian Lealiifano.
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