Super Rugby Pacific: Queensland Reds to host Moana Pasifika

Suliasi Vunivalu is set to play a key role in Queensland’s attempt to end a Super Rugby Pacific losing streak that has stretched to four matches.

The Queensland Reds intend to feed “strike weapon” Suliasi Vunivalu as much ball as possible in a bid to snap a four-game Super Rugby Pacific losing streak by beating Moana Pasifika at Suncorp Stadium on Friday night.

Despite having already qualified for the top-eight finals series the Reds are in free fall and are desperate to rediscover their early season form that lifted them to seven wins from eight matches before their depressing run of defeats.

Vunivalu looms as the spark to a much-needed form revival heading into next month’s playoffs.

The powerful and busy performance of the former Melbourne Storm NRL star in the Reds’ 53-26 last-start loss to the Blues was one of Queensland’s few bright spots on a forgettable night at Eden Park.

“When he gets the ball in his hands, there’s no-one like him,” Reds skipper Tate McDermott said.

“For us … it’s all about just getting him early ball, (and) getting him as many touches as possible.

“He came off his wing looking for work which is something we were really pleased about.

“He’s a strike weapon, and hopefully there’s a dry track this weekend so we can really showcase more of what we did at Eden Park.”

However, regardless of the impact Vunivalu has in attack, it threatens to count for little unless the Reds fix the defence problems that cost them dearly against the Blues.

“The focus is all about defence. We haven’t defended that poorly for a while,” McDermott said.

“That’s something that we’ve built our game around in the past, our defence.

“Those one-on-one tackles, we missed 32 (against the Blues), so we’ve got to make sure, particularly against a team like Moana, that we’re not missing our tackles, otherwise it’s going to be a similar story out there.”

The Reds will welcome back key back-row pair Fraser McReight and Harry Wilson, with Angus Scott-Young and Connor Vest dropping back to the bench.

In other changes to Queensland’s starting team, Hamish Stewart replaces the injured Hunter Paisami (shoulder) in the centres, hooker Matt Faessler takes the spot of the sidelined Albert Anae (tricep), and loosehead prop Harry Hoopert is recalled at the expense of Dane Zander.

The Reds bench includes the returning Richie Asiata but not lock Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, who has been dropped from the 23-man squad.

Reds: Harry Hoopert, Matt Faessler, Feao Fotuaika, Ryan Smith, Angus Blyth, Seru Uru, Fraser McReight, Harry Wilson, Tate McDermott (c), James O’Connor, Jordan Petaia, Hamish Stewart, Josh Flook, Suliasi Vunivalu, Jock Campbell. Bench: Richie Asiata, Dane Zander, Sef Fa’agase, Connor Vest, Angus Scott-Young, Kalani Thomas, Lawson Creighton, Filipo Daugunu.

Originally published as Suliasi Vunivalu a key factor in Reds’ bid to end a four-match losing streak

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