Super Rugby preview: Reds host Highlanders at the Suncorp Stadium
Last Updated: 30/05/14 6:43am
Highlanders have the opportunity to bolster their play-off bid on Friday when they travel to Brisbane to face rock-bottom Reds.
Three wins from nine has left former champions Reds languishing in 15th and they have struggled to hit anywhere near their 2011 title-winning heights.
The Reds are in the midst of a six-game losing streak, with four of those defeats coming at home, while the Highlanders have won and lost in equal measure over their last four outings.
Richard Graham will hope that with it being scrum-half Will Genia's 100th game for Queensland, the Suncorp Stadium and its players rise to the occasion on Friday and find some form.
"To be honest it's my proudest achievement in rugby so far," Genia said. "I just love Queensland and everything about the Reds.
"I love the state and the people. I also love my team-mates. We've gone through a long journey together and have had a pretty special journey so far, so this achievement means the world to me."
Meanwhile, the Highlanders remain very much in the hunt for top spot in New Zealand as despite their narrow and controversial loss against the Crusaders last week, they sit a point off the men from Christchurch in a four-horse race that also includes the Hurricanes and Chiefs.
Patrick Osborne was denied a late try by the TMO, but had the decision gone the opposite way then the table would have looked a whole lot different.
Reds coach Graham has made a number of changes to the side that lost to the Melbourne Rebels two weekends ago, with further injuries forcing some selection decisions.
In the forwards, experienced hooker Saia Fainga'a (calf) and props Jono Owen (back) and Ben Daley (thumb) are unavailable for selection due to injuries received during their last match, while flanker Eddie Quirk was a late withdrawal from consideration after rupturing his ACL at training during the week.
In the backs, fly-half Quade Cooper (shoulder) and wing/centre Chris Feauai-Sautia (shoulder) are out for the remainder of the season, while Lachie Turner (ankle) and Aidan Toua (pectoral) are not expected to return from their lengthy injury layoffs until after the June Test window.
In some good news for the side, prop James Slipper returns to the starting lineup following a three-week suspension for a lifting tackle. Slipper will slot straight into loosehead in place of injured prop Ben Daley.
Graham has made two changes to the starting backline, with Ben Lucas coming in for the injured Quade Cooper and Rod Davies returning to the XV to replace Jamie-Jerry Taulagi, who moves to the bench.
Jamie Joseph's Highlanders are boosted by the return of fly-half Lima Sopoaga, who has overcome an ankle injury to start opposite former team-mate Colin Slade.
Patrick Osborne also returns from an ankle injury and Malakai Fekitoa has been cleared to play after spending the week and All Black training camp in a moon boot.
Liam Coltman is sidelined with a calf injury and expected to be available for selection next week when the Highlanders take on the Reds in Brisbane.
Reds: 15 Harris, 14 Shipperley, 13 Tapuai, 12 Fainga'a, 11 Davies, 10 Lucas, 9 Genia; 1 Slipper, 2 Hanson, 3 Holmes, 4 Simmons, 5 Horwill (capt), 6 Browning, 7 Robinson, 8 Schatz.
Replacements: 16 Ready, 17 Anae, 18 Faagase, 19 McDuling, 20 Gill, 21 Frisby, 22 Kerevi, 23 Taulagi.
Highlanders: 15 B Smith (capt), 14 Buckman, 13 Fekitoa, 12 Treeby, 11 Osborne, 10 Sopoaga, 9 A Smith; 1 Hames, 2 Coltman, 3 Fia, 4 Hoeata, 5 Wheeler, 6 Evans, 7 Christie, 8 Manu.
Replacements: 16 Robinson, 17 Diaz, 18 King, 19 Franklin, 20 Dixon, 21 Tanaka, 22 Parker, 23 Burleigh.
You can watch Reds v Highlanders live from 10:40am on Sky Sports 2HD
Super Rugby 2014 Round 16
A last-second drop-goal from Jaco Taute helped the Stormers to a 21-19 win over the table-topping Sharks in Durban.
The Bulls' play-off hopes took a knock when they suffered a 32-21 loss to the Lions in Johannesburg on Saturday.
The Waratahs won their fourth straight Super Rugby match with a 33-17 victory over the champions, Waikato Chiefs.