Former NRL flyer Suliasi Vunivalu is poised to make his Super Rugby AU debut for Queensland off the bench in Friday’s clash with the Melbourne Rebels at Suncorp Stadium.
The prized recruit was forced to sit out last weekend’s season-opening win over the NSW Waratahs after being stood down for one match and fined for allegedly striking a security guard in the face late last month.
While the ex-Melbourne Storm winger will still have to go court in April, Reds coach Brad Thorn had no issues bringing the 25-year-old straight in to his team to face the Rebels.
“Good to have him involved this week and obviously we were hoping it was last week,” Thorn said.
“I guess that’s all fish and chip paper now.
“He’s been preparing for Friday and I think a lot of people will be excited to see what he brings.”
Vunivalu has been named on the bench along with another potential debutant in Sam Wallis, with Thorn making just one change to the starting lineup that belted the Waratahs 41-7 last Friday.
Thorn insists introducing Vunivalu off the bench was always his plan but added the performance of his backline against the Waratahs didn’t justify change for change’s sake.
“It’s definitely how I like to do it if someone’s coming in from an injury or new to the team. It just takes the pressure off,” he said.
“You’ve also got to remember you’ve got Jordan Petaia and Filipo Daugunu, you’ve got Hamish Stewart and Hunter Paisami there. You’ve got Jock Campbell at the back. It’s not just a list that someone can walk into is it?”
In the one change to the run-on team, Taniela Tupou starts at tighthead prop with Feao Fotuaika to take on the job as finisher from the bench.
QUEENSLAND REDS: Dane Zander, Alex Mafi, Taniela Tupou, Angus Blyth, Seru Uru, Angus Scott-Young, Fraser McReight, Harry Wilson, Tate McDermott, James O’Connor, Filipo Daugunu, Hamish Stewart, Hunter Paisami, Jordan Petaia, Jock Campbell. Reserves: Josh Nasser, Harry Hoopert, Feao Fotuaika, Ryan Smith, Sam Wallis, Moses Sorovi, Bryce Hegarty, Sulisai Vunivalu.