SYDNEY, June 30 (Reuters) - The Queensland Reds have welcomed key backs Digby Ioane and Anthony Faingaa from injury along with flanker Beau Robinson for their Super rugby semi-final clash with the Auckland Blues in Brisbane on Saturday.
Reds coach Ewen McKenzie also recalled back-rower Radike Samo in place of Jake Schatz who was dropped to the bench for the match at Lang Park, which is expected to draw a sell-out crowd of more than 50,000.
Former Wallabies prop Greg Holmes takes the place of injured tighthead James Slipper in the team named on Thursday.
The twice champions played their last playoff match in 2001 and have not hosted a semi-final in the southern hemisphere provincial tournament since 1999 when they lost to New Zealand’s Canterbury Crusaders at Ballymore.
The injury-ravaged side enjoyed a badly-needed week off after sewing up top spot in the regular season standings and McKenzie was pleased with the reinforcements at his disposal.
“We’ve been extremely impressed with the way our squad has handled the absence of some of our regulars, but you need strike power and experience to win big games and we have that returning in spades on Saturday night,” he said.
The three-times Super rugby champion Blues were beaten 37-31 by the Reds at Lang Park earlier in the season but will head into the semi-final with confidence following their emphatic win over the New South Wales Waratahs in the preliminary final.
The Auckland side have named a squad for Saturday’s game but were expected to finalise their lineup later on Thursday.
The winner will play either the Stormers or the seven-times champion Crusaders who meet in Cape Town on Saturday in the other semi-final.
(Reporting by Ian Ransom in Melbourne; Editing by Ossian Shine; To query or comment on this story email firstname.lastname@example.org)
Please double-click on:
for more rugby stories