The Queensland Reds have replaced one fringe Wallabies centre with another after Mike Harris was ruled out of Saturday’s Super Rugby clash with NSW.
Tough-tackling Anthony Fainga’a has been rushed into the Queensland Reds backline as they put NSW Waratahs prodigal son Kurtley Beale in their cross-hairs at ANZ Stadium.
Queensland coach Richard Graham named an unchanged team on Thursday morning but Fainga’a was promoted to inside centre only hours later after Mike Harris was ruled out with injury.
The unlucky Harris, a solid performer in the season-opening 27-17 win over the Brumbies, complained of ankle soreness during a morning weights session and was scratched after undergoing scans.
Defensive linchpin Fainga’a will now mark the dangerous Beale on Saturday night in the Bob Templeton Cup clash.
The 23-Test centre is renowned for his fast-rushing defence and also relishes the chance to chop down big-name rivals as he did so well in the Reds’ run to the 2011 Super Rugby title – twice shutting out Sonny Bill Williams.
Speaking before training, Graham hinted that Beale would be tested in his new position at inside centre, where he’s sharing the Waratahs’ playmaking duties with five-eighth Bernard Foley.
“We’ve got a few plans there about who we’re going to target but they’ve got a fair bit of quality there,” Graham said.
“Kurtley hasn’t played a lot at 12. He’s played a lot at 10, as a first receiver in attack, and as a fullback or as a second fullback in defence.”
Both Beale, in his long-awaited NSW return, and Foley took the ball at first receiver during the 43-21 rout of the Western Force, while Beale was stationed in different positions in defence depending on the situation.
Graham stressed most of the Reds’ focus was on themselves but didn’t mind sending a subtle warning that a variety of formations can come undone if unsettled.
“It can definitely make it difficult,” he said. “I think clarity breeds confidence and if you’re not quite sure, some indecision, you’re going to be punished there.”
The Waratahs were also forced to make a late change with skipper Dave Dennis ruled out with an ankle injury, opening the door for a long-awaited starting return for Wallaby Stephen Hoiles.
Most interstate battles are tight, nip-and-tuck affairs but Graham expects both sides to keep to their attacking ways.
“They have a big forward pack and they need to be moved around and hopefully we see the results of that at the back-end of the game,” he said.
Former NSW winger Lachie Turner will mark Peter Betham in his first match against his old side.
“Lachie is looking forward to the game, there’s absolutely no doubt about that,” Graham said. “He’s got a point to prove.”
Queensland: Aidan Toua, Lachie Turner, Ben Tapuai, Anthony Fainga’a, Dom Shipperley, Quade Cooper, Will Genia, Jake Schatz, Liam Gill, Ed Quirk, James Horwill, Rob Simmons, Greg Holmes, Saia Fainga’a, James Slipper. Res: James Hanson, Ben Daley, Jono Owen, Ed ODonoghue, Beau Robinson, Nick Frisby, Ben Lucas, Chris Feauai-Sautia.