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St.George Queensland Reds winger Digby Ioane and flanker Liam Gill return from injury in a major boost ahead of Saturday’s blockbuster FxPro Super Rugby regular season finale against the NSW Waratahs at Suncorp Stadium (kickoff 7:40pm).
Ioane has missed the past two games with a bout of pneumonia while Gill injured his hamstring during the Reds round 16 win over the Rebels, forcing the talented openside to miss last week’s thrilling 19-13 victory over the Highlanders.
Both have been cleared to play while lock Rob Simmons and ball-scavenger Beau Robinson have also overcome injury complaints to take their place within a determined Reds squad aiming to retain the prestigious Templeton Cup and secure a place within the Super Rugby Final Series.
The injection of Ioane and Gill are the only two changes to the starting XV while coach Ewen McKenzie has reverted back to a forward-heavy split on the bench.
McKenzie has also maintained the successful combinations used since the end of the June Test break with all but Gill and Ioane having started in their two most recent wins.
“Combinations and cohesion are critical at this stage of the season and we’ve got the luxury this week of maintaining the majority of the squad while also injecting some x-factor through Digby and Liam,” McKenzie said.
“Their inclusion will no doubt benefit the group but I’ve been thoroughly impressed with the efforts of some of our more unheralded guys the past few weeks, who have been stepping up to the mark to put us into a position where we are still alive for the finals.
“We’ve got guys finding form and some of our unsung heroes have been delivering each week. Their finding form at the right stage of the season and that’s a good sign for us heading into Saturday night.
“It’s a big game anytime you play the Tahs and there is obviously more than just bragging rights at stake. However, the challenge is something we look forward to, especially when playing in front of our home fans.”
The Reds are the current holders of the Templeton Cup after flyer Dom Shipperley broke the spirits of the New South Welshman in round one when he strode away 70-metres to score the match-winning try after the final siren had sounded.
The victory was the perfect start to the season for Queensland and also gave them their second straight win over their interstate rivals after previously recording a thrilling 19-15 triumph at Suncorp Stadium last year.
The Reds have now won their past five Super Rugby games while a win on Saturday would extend the Waratahs current losing streak to eight matches.
“The Waratahs may be out of finals contention but they still have a lot to play for and would also love to disrupt our season,” McKenzie said.
“It’s up to us to ensure that doesn’t happen by playing the perfect game. We haven’t produced a perfect 80 minutes of Rugby yet this season but that’s what we are building for and hopefully it all comes together on Saturday night.”
The Reds will be boosted by their largest crowd of the year for their blockbuster regular-season finale where a victory is crucial to the team’s finals ambitions.
A win for the Reds would apply pressure to a number of teams still in wildcard playoff contention and would force the Crusaders, Bulls and Sharks to win their final regular-season encounters to hold off the fast-finishing Queenslanders.
Meanwhile, a maximum point haul against the Waratahs would further enhance the Reds claims and force the Bulls and Sharks to score four tries and a bonus point against the Lions and Cheetahs respectively, while it would also open to door to winning the Australian Conference should the Brumbies slip-up against the Blues in Canberra.
Ensure you don’t miss out on Saturday night’s clash by securing your seat through Ticketek - http://premier.ticketek.com.au/shows/Show.aspx?sh=REDS2112.
St.George Queensland Reds team to play NSW Waratahs - Suncorp Stadium Saturday 14 July (7:30pm)
1. Greg Holmes
2. Saia Faingaa
3. James Slipper
4. Rob Simmons
5. Adam Wallace-Harrison (vc)
6. Jake Schatz
7. Liam Gill
8. Scott Higginbotham
9. Will Genia (c)
10. Quade Cooper
11. Digby Ioane
12. Mike Harris
13. Anthony Faingaa
14. Dom Shipperley
15. Luke Morahan
16. James Hanson
17. Ben Daley
18. Radike Samo
19. Beau Robinson
20. Jarrad Butler
21. Ben Lucas
22. Ben Tapuai
23rd man – Nick Frisby/Blake Enever
20 JUNE 2013
18 JUNE 2013
17 JUNE 2013