Thumbs down on Reds prop
REDS prop Feao Fotuaika has been grounded for up to six weeks by a broken thumb while Taniela Tupou has been benched for the key clash against the Melbourne Rebels.
Fotuaika appeared at Reds training on Thursday with his left hand already bandaged and in a brace after surgery to insert a plate.
The unfortunate postscript to last Sunday's rousing 36-14 victory over the Brumbies has factored into a front-row reshuffle for Saturday night's clash at Suncorp Stadium.
The Smith twins, Ruan and JP, will start as props with hooker Alex Mafi.
Botching two tries with handling errors has contributed to top prop Tupou losing his starting spot although assistant coach Peter Ryan said it had more to do with rotation.
Tupou's form has been a mixed bag with more scrum penalties conceded than expected and last Sunday's blemishes in a six-minute period before halftime.
He had the ball knocked from the crook of his giant right arm as he strained for the line against the Brumbies and spilt a perfect ball from Samu Kerevi when another try was on.
When the Reds did get clinical with their finishing in the second half they put on four tries to settle the game.
That's the standard that coach Brad Thorn is demanding.
"It's more based on rotation in the front-row group but Taniela did have a couple of defensive errors at the start of the game and would openly admit he's not found his best form," Ryan said.
"It's very disappointing for Feao. He's stepped up big time after dropping that big weight (13.5kg) during the off-season and it might be four-to-six weeks out."
The Reds have one bonus to make them smile with flanker Angus Scott-Young now picked to play after escaping with a warning at the judiciary on Wednesday night.
SANZAAR Judicial Committee chairman Robert Stelzner said there were mitigating factors that meant Scott-Young's act of foul play did not reach the red card threshold.
It was a flip from Monday night's Foul Play Review Committee which offered a one-game ban which prompted last night's challenge by the Reds.
Close-up video footage shed extra light on Scott-Young's closed right fist making "glancing" contact with the side of prop James Slipper's head at the bottom of a ruck.
"The Judicial Committee found that the initial contact appeared to have been between the player's forearm and his opponent's back-shoulder area," Stelzner said.
"It was determined that during the course of a legitimate, albeit clumsy, attempt to clean out his opponent, the back of the player's closed fist made contact with the back of his opponent's head with minimal consequence."
Scott-Young said he'd started cleaning out with a closed hand since breaking a finger last year.
Key Rebels spark Will Genia is one of four former Reds in the Rebels squad for Brisbane along with Quade Cooper, Sam Talakai and reserve Campbell Magnay.
The Rebels will be skippered by Angus Cottrell, the hard-edged flanker.
Genia said he'd noticed nothing different about Cooper's manner this week as he prepares to take on the Reds for the first time since being moved on last year.
"His focus hasn't been on what it's going to be like and personal battles and what he's coming up against," Genia said.
"It's just a case of him doing his job within the team to make sure we get a result.
"I know for me I'm really looking forward to playing at Suncorp Stadium.
"It's obviously a place with very good memories but that chapter (at the Reds) is closed and I'm excited about what we building at the Rebels."
Ryan was typically straightforward when fielding several questions on Genia and Cooper returning to Suncorp Stadium.
"I suppose it's a homecoming and they have intricacies to the way they play but we had a meeting this morning and didn't look at any vision," Ryan said.
"They are just two players we have to deal with and they are, obviously, very good players.
"The focus is on our roles, our training for the game."
And, finally, when Ryan was pressed again: "For me, I don't want to talk about Quade and Will.
"I don't give a rat's whether they come up here and play like champions or not. I'm focused on what we do as a group."
Queensland Reds: JP Smith, Alex Mafi, Ruan Smith, Izack Rodda, Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, Angus Scott-Young, Liam Wright, Scott Higginbotham, Tate McDermott, Bryce Hegarty, Sefa Naivalu, Samu Kerevi (c), Chris Feauai-Sautia, Filipo Daugunu, Hamish Stewart. Reserves: Brandon Paenga-Amosa, Harry Hoopert, Taniela Tupou, Harry Hockings, Fraser McReight, Moses Sorovi, Duncan Paia'aua, Isaac Lucas.
Melbourne Rebels: Tetera Faulkner, Anaru Rangi, SamTalakai, Matt Philip, Adam Coleman, Luke Jones, Angus Cottrell (c), Isi Naisarani, Will Genia, Quade Cooper, Marika Koroibete, Billy Meakes, Tom English, Jack Maddocks, Reece Hodge. Reserves: Robbie Abel, Matt Gibbon, Jermaine Ainsley, Esei Ha'angana, Rob Leota, Michael Ruru, Campbell Magnay, Sione Tuipulotu.