Prized recruit Suliasi Vunivalu will make his Queensland Reds starting debut in Saturday night’s Super Rugby AU grand final rematch in Canberra.
The former Melbourne Storm NRL premiership-winning winger debuted for the Reds off the bench in Queensland’s last-start 23-21 win over the Rebels, and did enough to earn a start against the Brumbies.
With Vunivalu’s inclusion, Jordan Petaia will shift from the wing to the centres, with Hamish Stewart losing his spot.
“Suliasi has been working hard at training and gets his chance to start this weekend,” Reds coach Brad Thorn said.
Vunivalu missed the Reds’ opening match of the season, a 41-7 thrashing of NSW, after being stood down following an altercation with a security guard that led to him being charged with common assault.
His inclusion is one of two changes to the Reds’ starting line-up, with lock Lukhan Salakaia-Loto recalled after serving a suspension hanging over from December when he was sent off for a dangerous tackle in the Wallabies’ 16-16 draw with Argentina.
Salakaia-Loto’s return results in Seru Uru dropping back to the bench at the expense of Sam Wallis.
“Initially it was frustrating knowing I was going to miss the first couple of games, but I think I’ve grown in a lot of different areas,” Salakaia-Loto said.
“That was my first red card, so hopefully it’s my last one. I was just too eager and got too ahead of myself. I’ve been working hard, as I always do my technique, with (Reds) defence coach Michael Todd.
“I’ve fixed a few things and hopefully I don’t get a red card.”
The reserves will also include fit-again Wallabies hooker Brandon Paenga-Amosa, who has recovered from a neck problem.
Reds: Dane Zander, Alex Mafi, Taniela Tupou, Angus Blyth, Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, Angus Scott-Young, Fraser McReight, Harry Wilson, Tate McDermott, Filipo Daugunu, Hunter Paisami, Jordan Petaia, Suliasi Vunivalu, Jock Campbell. Reserves: Brandon Paenga-Amosa, Harry Hoopert, Zane Nonggorr, Ryan Smith, Seru Uru, Moses Sorovi, Bryce Hegarty, Josh Flook.