Reds’ own Pooper combination to be unleashed
RECALLED Fraser McReight and Liam Wright will throw 80 minutes of whirlwind intensity at Japan's Sunwolves on Saturday as the two best young openside flankers in the country.
The Queensland Reds have a luxury no other Australian side enjoys in Super Rugby with these twin turbos in action at Suncorp Stadium.
Skipper Wright, 22, will start while McReight, 21, will be like a hyperactive kid when he tags in for the final 20 minutes or so.
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It's unsure yet whether Wright will be redeployed elsewhere in the backrow when McReight runs on as a supersub but having both is a huge plus for coach Brad Thorn.
The Reds have named an unchanged starting side to play the Sunwolves but Thorn has four new bench players to sustain the energy of his travel-weary squad.
McReight has repaired hand ligaments, new hooker Ed Craig is on the cusp of a Reds debut and prop Harry Hoopert has a disc problem under control for replacement duties.
Reserve halfback Scott Malolua is back after the shoulder surgery that cruelly ruled him out of last year's Rugby World Cup with Samoa.
It's rare for a Super Rugby team to so overtly back two players in the same specialist position.
McReight was signed on a four-year deal until the end of 2023 after his influential showings as captain of the Junior Wallabies last year.
Wright re-signed for 2020-21 and has been given Thorn's ultimate backing as the team's new skipper.
At some point, the Reds will have their own Michael Hooper-David Pocock conundrum over just who best suits the No.7 jersey in the starting team.
The pair are both zealous contributors at the breakdown but their traits are sharply different elsewhere.
The 1.92m Wright is a legitimate lineout target, often tops the tackle count (15) as he did last weekend against the Jaguares and is still building his running game.
He's the more experienced with 31 Reds games, plus his taste of two Tests, while McReight has just three 2019 cameos at Super Rugby level.
The headgeared McReight is a runner and linkman deluxe who frequently bounces away from the back of rucks for a 20-30m gallop.
"It's been pretty tough to watch the boys play three games on TV without being involved while the hand mended," McReight said.
"I'm super keen to rip in."
The Sunwolves will be a good test of the Reds' maturity because being conned into playing the visitors' Barbarians-style footy is a quick route to embarrassment.
"The Sunwolves take risks with the way they play that some sides don't and they'll be doubly dangerous in their last season as a club," halfback Tate McDermott said.
It is baffling that the Sunwolves, on death row, can draw 18,708 exuberant fans to their most recent match in Tokyo and no Australian side has gone close to pulling those numbers this season.
The Reds will have their loyal legion turn out at Suncorp Stadium but only winning rugby will return numbers to that 18,000 level.
REDS: Jock Campbell, Chris Feauai-Sautia, Hunter Paisami, Hamish Stewart, Henry Speight, James O'Connor, Tate McDermott, Harry Wilson, Liam Wright (c), Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, Angus Blyth, Izack Rodda, Taniela Tupou, Alex Mafi, JP Smith. Reserves: Ed Craig, Harry Hoopert, Josh Nasser, Harry Hockings, Fraser McReight, Scott Malolua, Isaac Lucas, Bryce Hegarty.