Australian sevens coach Geraint John has released star flanker Liam Gill from Commonwealth Games training to play Super Rugby for Queensland against NSW.
The beleaguered Queensland Reds have received a welcome boost, with classy flanker Liam Gill released from national duty to face the NSW Waratahs in their season-ending Super Rugby clash on Saturday night.
Already missing several stars, including Wallabies playmakers Quade Cooper and Will Genia, the Reds were also set to be without Gill before Australian sevens coach Geraint John answered a SOS call from Queensland coach Richard Graham.
Gill has been in camp with the Australian sevens squad in preparation for the Commonwealth Games, but generous John has freed the former Wallaby up to make his 50th appearance for the Reds.
Gill will start on the bench and, if he takes the field at Suncorp Stadium, become only the fifth player to earn 50 caps for the Reds.
“Getting ‘Gilly’ back from the Australian sevens program is a significant boost to the squad,” Graham said on Thursday.
“He is class footballer and his desire to play for the Reds illustrates how much the playing group care.
“He understands the risks associated, but is willing to accept those in order to play for the Reds.”
Graham made two changes to the Reds’ team that started in last Saturday’s 30-20 loss to the Western Force.
Halfback Scott Gale replaces Nick Frisby, who has a broken jaw, while prop Greg Holmes returns from a knee injury to the front row in place of Ben Daley.
The Reds are languishing in 12th position on the ladder with just four wins in 2014.
But they found an unlikely ally in Waratahs coach Michael Cheika on Thursday after Queensland great Stan Pilecki on Monday claimed Graham’s side didn’t give 100 per cent against the Force.
“I think that’s a bit harsh,” Cheika said.
“Richard’s come in there this year and he’s making changes. He wants to change things from before.
“I don’t see why he can’t do that and that’s going to have a bit of a net effect maybe in the short term, where it hasn’t gone as well for them.
“But he’s got a plan, he’s a smart coach and they’re making the changes they need so that next year he’s got his own reign that he can run, under his own conditions he wants as the coach.
“To say that they haven’t been putting in the effort is pretty harsh. I’ve watched all the games and I’ve seen the effort they’re putting in.”
Reds: Mike Harris, Rod Davies, Samu Kerevi, Ben Tapuai, Lachie Turner, Ben Lucas, Scott Gale, Jake Schatz, Beau Robinson, Curtis Browning, James Horwill (capt), Rob Simmons, Greg Holmes, James Hanson, James Slipper. Res: Saia Fainga’a, Ben Daley, Albert Anae, Dave McDuling, Liam Gill, Sam Johnson, Jamie-Jerry Taulagi, Chris Kuridrani.