Wallabies flanker Liam Gill is one of four starting changes for Queensland as they try to mark Quade Cooper’s 100th Reds match on Friday with a much-needed win.
Out for the past five weeks with a hamstring injury, Gill will replace Beau Robinson in the No.7 jersey for the Super Rugby clash against the Blues in Auckland.
Cooper will join captain James Horwill in the Reds’ 100 club, becoming the 27th player to reach the mark in Queensland rugby’s history.
Horwill’s milestone ended in disappointment last week when the Reds lost to the Hurricanes in Wellington.
After that loss Cooper spoke about how the Reds hadn’t delivered for their skipper and he is hopeful his own milestone match won’t go the same way.
“I’m focused on getting the win for our team,” Cooper said.
“I look at guys who’ve been in the team before who haven’t had the luxury of winning on their special night.
“Hopefully this will be something different.”
The Reds’ quest to end their three-game losing streak has led coach Richard Graham to toughen up his scrum against the Blues’ All Black front-row.
Veteran prop Greg Holmes will come in at tight-head while James Slipper moves across to loose-head.
Graham said he had to make the adjustment based on the opposition.
“Their scrum certainly, with (Tony) Woodcock, (Keven) Mealamu and (Charlie) Faumuina in the front row, that’s a very experienced front row,” he said.
“I just feel that Slipper, Saia (Fainga’a) and Holmes will be a really good scrummaging front row.”
There’s changes in the backline too with Anthony Fainga’a promoted to inside centre and Mike Harris switched to fullback.
That forces Ben Lucas to the bench while speedster Rod Davies replaces rookie Jamie-Jerry Taulagi on the left wing, with Graham hoping the shuffle stiffens the Reds’ defence.
“There’s no doubt the Auckland team resemble the Hurricanes,” Graham said.
“It’s important we keep the shape of the game and don’t let the game get unstructured.”
Kiwi-born Cooper, who also made his Super Rugby debut in New Zealand against the Crusaders in 2007, is continuing a tradition of stability unique to the Reds in Graham’s opinion.
“Queensland now have got 27 players that have played 100 games or more for the Reds and that’s not a feat achieved by any of the other Super Rugby franchises,” he said.
Reds: Mike Harris, Chris Feauai-Satutia, Ben Tapuai, Anthony Fainga’a, Rod Davies, Quade Cooper, Will Genia; Jake Schatz, Liam Gill, Eddie Quirk, James Horwill (capt), Rob Simmons, Greg Holmes, Saia Fainga’a, James Slipper. Res: James Hanson, Ben Daley, Jono Owen, Ed O’Donoghue, Beau Robinson, Nick Frisby, Ben Lucas, Jamie-Jerry Taulagi.