Prized Reds recruit Suliasi Vunivalu will make his Super Rugby AU debut off the bench on Friday night after Queensland coach Brad Thorn elected to stick with the same starting backline that tormented the Waratahs.
Having missed the Reds’ 41-7 thrashing of NSW last week after being stood down by Queensland for disciplinary reasons after being charged with common assault charge following an altercation with a security guard, Vunivalu has been to be content with a spot among the reserves for Friday\s clash with the Rebels at Suncorp Stadium.
Thorn revealed that had the former Melbourne Storm NRL premiership winner been available last week he also would have started on the bench.
“It’s generally how I like to do it,” Thorn said.
“If someone’s coming in from an injury or is new to the team, it takes the pressure off.
“It’s a process. He’s got to learn this game. He’s been improving at training, but then it comes to actually playing, I’m sure you’ll see him get better and better.”
Thorn also said the quality of the Reds’ backs had made it tough for Vunivalu to walk into Queensland’s starting team.
“You’ve got (wingers) Jordan Petaia and Filipo Daugunu, you’ve got (centres) Hamish Stewart and Hunter Paisami, you’ve got (fullback) Jock Campbell at the back, so it’s not just an easy side to walk into,” the Reds coach said.
“He’ll be pushing his case but there’s some sharp talent there. It’s been built over the years.”
A Daugunu double at Suncorp ✌🏻🔥 #WeAreQueenslandpic.twitter.com/e8ThsLndTm
Thorn hoped to give Vunivalu at least 20 minutes of game time, but said it would depend on the situation of the game.
“Obviously the team comes first and it depends how the game is shaping, (but) ideally you want to give him some decent minutes,” he said.
While Thorn named an unchanged backline, he had made one alteration to his starting pack, with Wallabies prop Taniela Tupou replacing Feao Fotuaika in the front row.
“Taniela is a world-class prop and he comes in this week. It’s a good opportunity for him,” Thorn said.
Despite the Reds’ comprehensive win over the Waratahs, Thorn said there was “room for improvement” in the Queensland side.
“There was big stretch of that game that we weren’t happy with,” he said.
“We were overplaying … pushing the pass or getting a little bit impatient, so there’s a bit to do there.”
Wallabies hooker Brandon Paenga-Amosa remains sidelined with a neck injury, with Thorn hopeful of his return for the Reds’ March 13 clash against the Brumbies in Canberra.
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