Queensland Reds coach Richard Graham has made five changes to his side ahead of Friday night’s Super Rugby clash with the Cheetahs.
In need of a feel good story after their horror loss to NSW Waratahs, Queensland Reds coach Richard Graham reckons his new-look team has delivered two ahead of Friday night’s Super Rugby home clash with the Cheetahs.
Comeback success stories Rod Davies and James Hanson return to the starting side as part of five changes for their Suncorp Stadium homecoming in the wake of their 32-5 thumping at the hands of NSW.
After a game that delivered few positives, the smile returned to Graham’s face on Tuesday after unveiling Davies and Hanson in his first XV.
Flying winger Davies plays his first Super Rugby game since last July after overcoming a knee reconstruction, replacing NSW recruit Lachie Turner who is nursing a knee niggle.
Turner initially suffered the injury in a trial against the Chiefs but he is in no danger of missing their looming two-game trip to South Africa.
“It’s great to see Rod back. It was an horrific knee injury last year,” Graham said.
Hanson is back in the No.2 jersey, capping a recovery from nerve neck damage suffered eight months ago.
His rival for the hooker role – Saia Fainga’a – is on the bench after suffering a cork in the NSW loss.
Graham dipped his hat to Hanson who had to undergo everything from neck strengthening and posture adjustment to Pilates and physiotherapy to fight his way back into the Reds side.
“He’s another good story with the nerve injury in his neck and shoulder,” Graham said.
“He worked overtime to get himself back for the trials and his contribution the last two games have been very good.”
Mike Harris comes back from an ankle complaint and moves into the starting lineup, replacing Anthony Fainga’a at inside centre.
Chris Feauai-Sautia will make his first start of the year at outside centre.
Both Fainga’a and Ben Tapuai have been moved to the bench.
In other changes, prop Ben Daley takes over from James Slipper at loosehead.
Along with Saia Fainga’a, Slipper also suffered a cork on the weekend and has been moved to the reserves.
Apart from the niggles, the Reds’ biggest complaint after their worst loss to NSW in 20 years it seemed was damaged pride.
“Obviously we were disappointed with the result on the weekend. We’ve got a group pretty keen to resolve that,” Graham said.
“(But) I think you have to put it into context.
“Four of our first five games are away from home, two are derby games which are tough.
“We were disappointed. There’s no doubt we didn’t play well the other night, certainly not what we were capable of.”