Cooper in, Moore out for battling Queensland Reds
QUADE Cooper's return to the leaking Reds ship coincides with a rest for veteran skipper Stephen Moore under Queensland's rotation policy.
Flyhalf Cooper's game control and the way he invigorates the attack is much-needed for Saturday afternoon's clash against South Africa's Southern Kings at Suncorp Stadium.
The Reds have flopped 0-3 during his three-game suspension for a dangerous tackle and the team's Super Rugby finals hopes are on life support unless there is a dramatic streak of wins starting Saturday.
The Reds have made a significant statement at flyhalf with teenage Queensland Under-20s player Hamish Stewart on the bench ahead of Jake McIntyre, who has been axed altogether after three starts in Cooper's position.
Moore's absence makes sense. Coach Nick Stiles has indicated all season that managing Moore to get the best from the Wallabies captain, at 34, was always been a strategy.
Missing the Kings match and enjoying the bye the following week will have Moore fresh and sharp for the big clash against the NSW Waratahs at Suncorp Stadium on April 29.
Centre Samu Kerevi will captain the side in Moore's absence, a huge honour for the excitable Fijian.
The surprise is young rookie Alex Mafi winning a start at hooker instead of Moore.
The spot should have been a chance for Andrew Ready but he is now ruing the cost of his shortcuts in preparation which Stiles indicated was the reason for losing favour.
He was missing from last weekend's game against the Brumbies and booted back to club rugby.
Ready will be on the bench and Stiles hopes it will have been a valuable lesson.
Karmichael Hunt makes his return from concussion at fullback.
Lock Lukhan Tui has earned his first start of the 2017 season, in place of Kane Douglas, who is on the bench.
The other change to the forward pack sees Japanese Test player Hendrik Tui return to starting blindside flanker, with Adam Korczyk moved to the reserves.
Nick Frisby, also demoted to club rugby last weekend, is back as reserve halfback.