Nick Frisby will partner Ben Lucas in a Reds halves combination, missing both Will Genia and Quade Cooper, against the Melbourne Rebels.
Bench-warmer Nick Frisby boasts just a handful of starts but looms as the Queensland Reds’ X-factor in their first Super Rugby outing without their superstar halves in six years.
Not since 2008 have Will Genia and Quade Cooper both been sidelined together and halfback Frisby and fellow utility Ben Lucas must shoulder the playmaking load against the Melbourne Rebels on Friday night.
Lucas performed strongly at No.10 in the Reds’ last-start upset of the Highlanders before the mid-season break but the onus is on the nippy Frisby to fill Genia’s big boots.
“I’ve got a lot of confidence in him actually,” said Reds coach Richard Graham. “While he hasn’t seen a lot of starting time he’s been around Will for the last three years learning.”
Frisby filled in for an injured Genia for the first three matches of last season, while his last run-on start highlighted his attacking prowess, setting up and then scoring a superb 55m try in Queensland’s 22-12 loss to the British and Irish Lions.
Graham admitted the pacey 21-year-old’s inclusion would help make the Reds more unpredictable.
“You do so much analysis these days on the opposition and certainly they won’t have seen a lot of Nick,” he said.
“I think you play a different game by the sheer fact that (Genia and Cooper) aren’t in the team.
“But I think it provides us with a really good opportunity as a team to find our own way, certainly for Nick and Ben to lead the team around.”
Frisby is the only change to the team which overcame the Highlanders 38-31 before the mid-season break on May 30, with Graham rewarding his incumbents.
Despite the returns of winger Lachie Turner and prop Ben Daley from injury, plus the availability of influential flanker Liam Gill, Graham has kept the faith for the AAMI Park clash.
Turner has been left on the bench even though back-three trio Mike Harris (Rebels), Rod Davies (Biarritz) and Dom Shipperley (Rebels) are heading elsewhere next year.
“I’m not going to make selection change based on 2015 because I want to finish 2014 really strongly,” Graham said.
Wallabies prop James Slipper, who captained the Reds last year, was surprisingly overlooked for the vice-captaincy with centre Anthony Fainga’a taking the role left vacant by Genia’s ankle injury.
“It’s important, with Will and Quade not in the team, that we have someone to lead in the backs and Ant does that,” Graham said.