Reds v British and Irish Lions - Tour match preview
By Tony Curtis - Follow me on Twitter: @SkysportsTC. Last Updated: June 8, 2013 10:36am
There is a feeling the British and Irish Lions tour will get underway properly on Saturday with their clash against the Reds.
Having thumped the Barbarians on their stop-off in Hong Kong, the Lions then routed the under-strength Western Force in Perth on Wednesday.
The Force were heavily criticised for their selection policy for the prestigious fixture - with coach Michael Foley trying to juggle his resources to cover Sunday's Super Rugby derby with the Waratahs.
However there will be no such issues against the Reds, with Ewen McKenzie naming the strongest possible line-up.
Saia Faingaa, Will Genia, Liam Gill, James Horwill, Digby Ioane, Rob Simmons and James Slipper are unavailable after their call ups to the Wallabies squad - however there is still wealth of talent in the Reds line-up.
In the match-day squad, 12 players have been capped by Australia - totalling 127 caps between them - and all eyes on how Quade Cooper performs at fly-half.
The enigmatic playmaker is currently in the international wilderness after his clash with Australia coach Robbie Deans - however there is no doubting his talent.
And he will lead the side in Brisbane, with McKenzie saying: "Quade is a proven winner and real facilitator of success here at the Reds and the reality is that we win more games with him in the side.
"But, what most people don't know or see is the responsibility and ownership he takes on with regards to our gameplan. Quade has now had four years of direct leadership involvement in this space, not just in calling the game, but in advocating our gameplan and problem solving during the week."
Centres Anthony Faingaa and Ben Tapuai, hooker James Hanson and flanker Beau Robinson will also be looking to catch the eye ahead of the three-Test series.
While the Reds have named their strongest possible line-up, the Lions have once again rotated their options - with only Manu Tuilagi and Tommy Bowe retained from the side that beat the Force 69-17.
Crucially Sam Warburton is back to captain the side after a knee injury saw him miss the opening two games of the tour. Gethin Jenkins had also been due to play, however he now misses out with Mako Vunipola promoted to the starting XV.
Brothers Ben and Tom Youngs and lock Geoff Parling make their first starts, while Owen Farrell gets another chance to stake a claim for the No 10 jersey.
"Every player was told that they were going to get a start. Others have been waiting just like me," said Warburton. "I have been in this position in the Six Nations when you've got to sit out a couple of games. I am pretty used to that."
The Lions will be looking to continue their fine run in Queensland, having won their last four tour games in the state (19-15 v Queensland and 30-6 v Queensland B in 1989 and 42-8 v Queensland and 83-6 v Queensland President's XV in 2001). However the Reds were the last Australian provincial team to beat the Lions with a famous 15-11 victory back in 1971 - and the Lions will be determined to avoid a repeat at the Suncorp Stadium.
Reds: 15 Ben Lucas, 14 Rod Davies, 13 Ben Tapuai, 12 Anthony Faingaa, 11 Luke Morahan, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Nick Frisby, 1 Ben Daley, 2 James Hanson, 3 Greg Holmes, 4 Adam Wallace-Harrison, 5 Ed O'Donoghue, 6 Eddie Quirk, 7 Beau Robinson, 8 Jake Schatz.
Replacements: 16 Albert Anae, 17 Sam Denny, 18 Jono Owen, 19 Radike Samo, 20 Jarrad Butler, 21 Jono Lance, 22 Mike Harris, 23 Dom Shipperley
British and Irish Lions: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Manu Tuilagi, 12 Jonathan Davies, 11 Tommy Bowe, 10 Owen Farrell, 9 Ben Youngs, 1 Mako Vunipola, 2 Tom Youngs, 3 Matt Stevens, 4 Richie Gray, 5 Geoff Parling, 6 Dan Lydiate, 7 Sam Warburton (c), 8 Toby Faletau.
Replacements: 16 Richard Hibbard, 17 Dan Cole, 18 Adam Jones, 19 Paul O'Connell, 20 Justin Tipuric, 21 Conor Murray, 22 Jonathan Sexton, 23 George North
Lions v Reds 2013
Sky Sports brings you all the best of the action, reaction and opinion from the Suncorp Stadium.
Following the Lions' victory over the Reds in Brisbane, we assess how the players fared.
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