The Queensland Reds have embraced extra time away from home in preparing to meet the Melbourne Rebels.
The absence of an extended trip away that was once part of the Super Rugby landscape has ensured the Queensland Reds have embraced their prolonged interstate road trip.
After thrashing the Waratahs 46-14 at Stadium Australia last Saturday, the Reds didn’t return to Queensland due to the COVID-19 cluster that led to this week’s three-day Greater Brisbane region lockdown.
Instead, Thorn and his men remained in Sydney until Thursday, when they flew to Melbourne ahead of Saturday night’s Super Rugby AU clash against the Rebels at AAMI Park.
“With Super Rugby AU it’s not like normal Super Rugby where you go to Africa for a couple of weeks,” the Reds coach said.
“That used to be a challenging trip but it was also a good bonding time for the team so in a way it’s been a positive thing.”
The Reds are aiming to maintain their unbeaten start to the season by recording a sixth successive win.
Those victories included a tight 23-21 win over the Rebels at Suncorp Stadium on February 26.
“It’s always a tough contest (against the Rebels),” Thorn said.
“They have improved as we see them as a really big challenge and we’re going to have to be on our game to go down there and get the result that we want.”
The Rebels are chasing a third straight win after a slow start to the season
Rebels coach Dave Wessels said: “This week is a good opportunity for us to build momentum.
“We feel we’ve gotten better with every game and this week will be a great opportunity to test ourselves against a team playing really well and with a lot of confidence.”
The Reds will be without prized recruit Suliasi Vunivalu, who is facing an extended period on the sidelines after injuring his hamstring against the Waratahs.
His absence is part of a reshuffle to Queensland’s backline.
Recalled to the starting side, Hamish Stewart will make his 50th Queensland appearance when he partners Hunter Paisami in the centres.
Jordan Petaia will shift to the wing, while regular fullback Jock Campbell will move to the other wing, allowing Bryce Hegarty to return to the starting line-up at fullback.
“Bryce has earned the right to start this week” Thorn said.
“He’ll do his job at fullback for us with Jock and Jordan shifting to the wing.
“Hamish will bring up his 50th cap for Queensland. He’s worked hard in our program and is a valued member of this group.
“It’s a special achievement for Hamish and we congratulate him on reaching this milestone.”
Prop Feao Fotuaika also returns to Queensland’s starting side after serving a three-match suspension.