x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Top Queenslanders out for Super 14 clash

The Reds pack is shuffled as Braid, Simmons and Byrnes are on casualty list for must-win game with title rivals Wellington.

Ewen McKenzie, the Queensland Reds coach, has been forced to restructure his pack because injuries to key players ahead of the must-win clash against fellow Super 14 title contenders the Hurricanes in Wellington tomorrow. Daniel Braid, the in-form flanker, will miss the game in Wellington with a knee injury, joining Rob Simmons (facial fracture) and Adam Byrnes (knee) on the casualty list. The two locks were ruled out with injuries suffered in last week's 32-12 loss to the Brumbies.

But it is not all bad news for McKenzie, who welcomes back Van Humphries, the veteran lock, from an ankle injury as one of five changes to his starting line-up. Radike Samo, the former Australia forward who signed with the Reds last month following a stint in France, will partner Humphries in the second row in his debut for the Queenslanders. Andrew Shaw will wear the No 7 jumper for the first time this season in Braid's absence, while prop Greg Holmes will also make his first starting appearance of the campaign at tighthead. In the only change to the backline, Rod Davies returns from a hamstring injury to take over the right wing spot from Brando Va'aulu, who reverts to the bench.

James Slipper, the Reds Academy prop, has been added to the bench alongside Lei Tomiki, the flanker who is fresh from a lengthy stint in Europe. "Having lost Braid in addition to Simmons and Byrnes, we took the opportunity to change things around a bit more to give us different options in the starting side and off the bench," McKenzie said. "We'll be looking to guys like Shaw and Tomiki to give us immediate impact and putting Holmes into the starting side gives us a bit more experience there and is a reward for what he's delivered for us off the bench this year.

"In the backs, now that he is fit Rod Davies deserves the opportunity to start after being in such good form before he was injured." The fourth-placed Reds can ill-afford another defeat after stumbling against the Brumbies in their last game, while the seventh-placed Hurricanes will be equally desperate for a home victory. A loss to either side will all severely dent their finals hopes, while victory would leave the Reds with a strong chance to land a home semi-final provided they can beat the Highlanders in Brisbane in the final round of the regular season.

Elsewhere, Scott Staniforth, the Western Force winger, has been ruled out of the final two matches of the season with a neck injury. Staniforth suffered the injury in the Force's 33-12 win over the Lions last week and has been forced to return home from the club's tour of South Africa and begin his recovery. The 32-year-old had only just returned from a calf injury against the Lions when he scored the first try of the game.

"It's not going to affect his long-term playing future," said Mitch Hardy, the RugbyWA general manager of rugby. "This type of injury needs some time to settle and with only a couple of games to go in the 2010 season there is no need to rush that process. "We have the option to bring a replacement over to join the squad but at this stage it is likely that Cameron Shepherd will be available for selection, which gives us some cover in the backline." * PA