Crusaders vs. Reds, AEST in Christchurch at 5.05pm on Friday
Co-captain Liam Wright returned to the Reds from XV when Queensland embraced their rank-and-file status against the Crusaders in the first Super Rugby quarter-final.
Wright, who will start in the openside Flanker ahead of Fraser McRight, made a successful comeback from an ankle injury to the Red-Blacks 28-15 in Christchurch last weekend.
Associate forwards Harry Huppert and Angus Blyth also returned to the run-on side when coach Brad Thorne welcomed Walbis center Hunter Paisami to the bench with a shoulder injury.
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Wright’s co-captain, halfback Tate McDermott, said a week at Canterbury had raised Queensland’s $ 8.50 further with bookmakers’ determination.
“No one is giving us a chance and that’s something we’ve really bounced around,” McDermott said.
“Everywhere you look today, the tide of protectionist sentiment is flowing. Some people want to hang out or have a picture. It’s nice to be in a rugby town and guys like Fraser enjoy hacking.”
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The Crusaders, meanwhile, have risen to prominence with the return of All Blacks trio Richie Munga, Cody Taylor and Jack Goodhua.
Crusaders coach Scott Robertson said: “Final football is really a special time, but it’s a whole new level, so if we want to earn ourselves one more week in this competition we have to go step by step.”
“Both sides learned a bit about each other last week, and it’s a pretty unique scene to play back-to-back games against the same opponent. Although it’s knockout rugby, and Queensland knows what it’s like to play in this big game. We’re not taking anything for granted and we need our fans right behind us. “
Crusaders (15-1): Will Jordan, Sevu Rees, Jack Goodhu, David Havley, Leicester Fainaganuku, Richie Munga, Brian Hall, Cullen Grace, Ethan Blackader, Pablo Matera, Sam Whitelock, Scott Barrett (C), Oli Jagger, Cody Taylor,
Reserve: Brody McAllister, Finlay Bruce, Fletcher Neil, Zach Gallagher, Tom Christie, Mitch Drummond, Braden Ener, George Bridge
REDS (15-1): Jock Campbell, Suliasi Vunivalu, Jordan Petia, Hamish Stewart, Filippo Daugunu, Lawson Creighton, Tate McDermott (Co-C), Harry Wilson, Liam Wright (Co-C), Seru Uru, Angus Blyth, Ryan Smith, Ryan Smith . Fessler, Harry Huppert
Reserve: Richie Asiata, Dan Xander, Safe Fagase, Connor West, Angus Scott-Young, Fraser McRight, Kalani Thomas, Hunter Paisami
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Chief vs. Waratahs, AEST in Hamilton on Saturday at 2.35pm
Varatas have been encouraged by the return of Prop Harry Johnson-Holmes to Saturday’s clash with the chiefs.
Johnson-Holmes will start after recovering from a knee injury, the only change in the losing streak to the Blues.
“It’s great to have Harry back on the team, he was one of our strongest and most consistent performers before the injury and added a significant amount of work to the field,” said Wartahas coach Darren Coleman.
“Langie (Gleason) was outstanding against the Highlanders and we are looking for similar effects from Hugh Sinclair and Jeremy Williams off the bench.
The six-two bench (forward-back split) seems to be working for us, it gives us the ability to replace some of the initial tactics and gives us security if we get hit late in the game. “
Waratahs (15-1): Ben Donaldson, Mark Nawakanitawas, Alex Newsom, Lalkai Foketti, Dylan Pitts, Ten Admed, Jake Gordon (C), Will Harris, Michael Hooper, Charlie Gamble, Ned Hannigan, Jade Hallway, Harry Johnson-Horse, Homes
Reserve: Tom Horton, Paddy Ryan, Archer Holmes, Hugh Sinclair, Jeremy Williams, Langie Gleason, Jack Grant, Jamie Roberts
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Blues vs. Highlanders, AEST in Auckland at 5.05pm on Saturday
BRUMBIES vs HURRICANES, Saturday evening at 6.45 AEST in Canberra.
For Saturday’s home quarter-final, Brumbis will again be without star flanker Rob Valetini as the Canberra club has announced the impending departure of four stars.
Valetini was ruled out with a knee injury when Brumbis confirmed that Scott CO, Tom Banks, Folau Fainga and Ira Simon would leave the club at the end of the season.
“We’re in a good place to have a great game on Saturday night,” said Brumbies coach Dan McKeller.
“There is a threat of hurricanes across the park, and we have to do our best to win and we are preparing for a great week so far.
“We had a big five weeks and we didn’t get it last weekend, but we had a few seconds to beat the Blues and we got good results before the Crusaders match. We were confident and excited to be back on Saturday night in front of our members, fans and family.”
Brumbis (15-1): Tom Banks, Tom Wright, Lane Ikitau, Ira Simon, Andy Muerhead, Noah Lolesio, Nick White, Pete Samu, Luke Reimer, Tom Hooper, Cadarin Neville, Darcy Swain, Alan Alatoa, Silau Fainga, James Slipper
Reserve: Lachlan Lonargan, Scott CO, Sefo Kautai, Nick Frost, Rory Scott, Jahrom Brown, Ryan Lonargan, Oli Shapsford
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