Super Rugby Pacific: James O’Connor returns to aid stumbling Reds

·2-min read
 Credit: PA Images
Credit: PA Images

The Reds have been boosted by the return Australia international James O’Connor, who takes his place at fly-half for the encounter with the Blues.

Brad Thorn’s men had an outstanding start to the season, winning seven of their first eight matches, but in O’Connor’s absence they have lost their last three matches.

They have succumbed to the Hurricanes, Chiefs and Highlanders in Super Rugby Pacific without the playmaker on the field.

Massive for the belief

“Lawson (Creighton) did a really good job, but having James back it’s massive for the belief of the side,” captain Tate McDermott said.

“(He brings) belief and that’s been the thing lacking; we’ve been going into our shells, played a conservative brand of footy that hasn’t suited us.”

Hunter Paisami is also back in the Reds fold while Angus Scott-Young starts ahead of Fraser McReight, who is out with illness.

“We’re looking forward to flying over to New Zealand again. We haven’t played at Eden Park in four years. It’s an iconic stadium and a good challenge awaits us,” head coach Thorn said.

“The Blues are on top for a reason. They’re a quality side and we are expecting a tough match on Saturday night.

“We’ve lost a couple of close ones in the last few weeks which has been disappointing. We’ll take the learnings out of those games in what will be a tough contest this week.”

Reds: 15 Jock Campbell, 14 Suliasi Vunivalu, 13 Josh Flook, 12 Hunter Paisami, 11 Jordan Petaia, 10 James O’Connor, 9 Tate McDermott (c), 8 Seru Uru, 7 Angus Scott-Young, 6 Connor Vest, 5 Angus Blyth, 4 Ryan Smith, 3 Feao Fotuaika, 2 Albert Anae, 1 Dane Zander
Replacements: 16 Matt Faessler, 17 Harry Hoopert, 18 Sef Fa’agase, 19 Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, 20 Tuaina Taii Tualima, 21 Kalani Thomas, 22 Hamish Stewart, 23 Lawson Creighton

Date: Saturday, May 14
Venue: Eden Park
Kick-off: 19:05 local (08:05 BST, 07:05 GMT)
Referee: Mike Fraser (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Angus Mabey (New Zealand), Jono Bredin (New Zealand)
TMO: Aaron Paterson (New Zealand)

READ MORE: Wallabies captain Michael Hooper encouraged by progress of Australian Super Rugby teams

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