Douglas set for long-awaited Reds debut
RUGBY: Reds coach Nick Stiles has issued a strong rebuttal to any suggestions Wallaby second-rower Kane Douglas was rushed back on to the bench to face the Brumbies in Canberra on Friday night.
Douglas told Australian Regional Media earlier this month he wanted to return for two Super Rugby games after the international break, for what will be his long-awaited Queensland debut after a left ACL injury.
But his excellent work in recovery means he is now set to take the field from the bench against the ACT with three rounds in the competition left, and with fellow Wallabies lock Rob Simmons (shoulder) injured.
“We haven’t rushed him (Douglas) one bit. We’re not desperate,” Stiles said.
“It’s been mapped out since that (World Cup final last November against New Zealand when Douglas suffered his knee injury) in the UK.
“The plan was when he got back to playing it was in the second half off the bench.”
Hulking prop Taniela Tupou – a 135kg YouTube sensation nicknamed “Tongan Thor” – is set to make his Super Rugby debut off the bench.
New Zealand-born 121kg lock Lukhan Tui will make his run-on debut.
Wallabies squad member Leroy Houston has returned to the Reds from Bath in England, and the No.8 was named on the bench.
With Karmichael Hunt (groin) still injured and Ayumu Goromaru’s (shoulder) season over, the Reds have called up Norths’ Jack Tuttle to fullback.
He will reunite with younger brother and under-20s captain James, who is on the bench.
Queensland’s backline will be not be at full strength with Chris Feauai-Sautia (foot surgery) and Junior Laloifi (broken thumb) also sidelined.
Despite those losses, Reds captain James Slipper said he was excited at the blockbusting potential of Tupou.
“He’s one of the most gifted athletes I’ve seen,” Slipper said of Tupou, who is back from an ankle injury. “He can be anything and he’s athletically blessed but his work ethic is really good.”
The Reds are also excited at what Tui can bring to the second row.
“He’s a monster. Even with his size he’s quite athletic, which is incredible,” Stiles said. “His line-out jumping for a big unit is very good.
“I reckon he would have played more rugby for us this year but he came out of last year’s 20s tournament and had a shoulder reconstruction.”
The struggling Reds – long out of finals contention – have a poor record in chilly Canberra with three wins from 14 games in Super Rugby.
The Brumbies are first in the Australian conference with 34 competition points, while Queensland has just three wins from 12 games on 16 points.
“They’ve got a very good scrum, good line-out, good maul and it’s our challenge to step up in those areas – which ironically are our strengths – and counteract the Brumbies,” Stiles said.