Izaia Perese could be the answer to the Reds’ try scoring issues.
Izaia Perese could be the answer to the Reds’ try scoring issues.

Perese has points to prove in Reds return

THE long-awaited lift-off for wing weapon Izaia Perese can shake-up the spluttering try-power of the Queensland Reds for an overdue interstate upset against the NSW Waratahs in Sydney on Saturday night.

No team in Super Rugby this season has scored fewer tries (12) which emphasises that the Reds are not converting anywhere near enough of the chances created by their rattling defence and strong forward play.

Perese has repaired the knee ligament damage which cost him six games after an eye-catching pre-season included the winning try in a trial against a Fijian XV and three more in the Brisbane Global Rugby Tens.

He adds alertness, roaming X-factor and a real tackle-buster with the fire for such a grand return of interstate rugby to the Sydney Cricket Ground for the first time since 1983.

"Izaia is starting for the first time this year. He's been cracking in at training and he offers a bit of strike in attack," coach Brad Thorn said.

Former coach Nick Stiles pulled a wonderful surprise last year with his stirred-up team wearing traditional maroon jerseys for the clash in Brisbane and that salute to the match's meaning will be repeated by Thorn on Saturday night.

Stiles' accent on a rip-and-tear contest against the old enemy has been taken on without hesitation by Thorn, whose own distaste for NSW jerseys was built in the cauldron of State of Origin rugby league as a forward.

Last season's game was the most pulsating interstate clash in years but the ending needs rewriting after a numbing 29-26 loss from a 19-7 lead.

"NSW have been one of our main rivals throughout Queensland's history and it is always a great occasion, made more special by playing at the SCG," Thorn said.

"The guys love that we're playing in the maroon jersey again. It would be good to see more of it in the future."

Reds lock Kane Douglas in the heritage jersey Queensland will wear on Saturday night.
Reds lock Kane Douglas in the heritage jersey Queensland will wear on Saturday night.

No Reds team has won in Sydney since 2013 and the 32-5, 31-5 and 30-10 losses since have been among the most limp from the Reds.

Injuries to destructive prop Taniela Tupou (shoulder) and No.8 Scott Higginbotham (calf) strip a concerning amount of dynamism from the pack.

It is the perfect chance for Lukhan Tui to fill that void now he has been reinstated at blindside flanker in a massive middle row beside Kane Douglas and Izack Rodda.

Tui's storming first half with three bullocking runs against NSW last year in Brisbane was the persuasive case that earned him a Wallabies jersey a few short months later.

Skilful young flanker Liam Wright has been elevated to start ahead of Adam Korczyk while Ruan Smith starts at tighthead prop instead of Tupou.

The Reds have made a promising 3-3 start to the season but if they want to stay in finals contention they have to start winning more games against rivals in the Australian Conference.

Beating NSW (19 points from six games) is imperative or the Reds (13 from six) will fall further behind the conference pace set by the Melbourne Rebels (20 from six) and the Waratahs.

With halfback Ben Lucas (concussion) out, James Tuttle is in at No.9.


REDS: James Slipper (c), Brandon Paenga-Amosa, Ruan Smith, Izack Rodda, Kane Douglas, Lukhan Tui, Liam Wright, Caleb Timu, James Tuttle, Jono Lance, Izaia Perese, Samu Kerevi, Chris Feauai-Sautia, Filipo Daugunu, Aidan Toua. Reserves: Alex Mafi, JP Smith, Sef Fa'agase, Adam Korczyk, Angus Scott-Young, Tate McDermott, Hamish Stewart, Jordan Petaia.