Former Australian U20s captain Curtis Browning will face a baptism of fire against the Waratahs in Sydney tomorrow night after being named in the Reds' No.6 jersey.
Browning has been called up to replace Liam Gill, who will miss up to four weeks with stress fractures in his back.
Gill's injury is a serious blow for the Reds who have already lost star recruit Kane Douglas for the season after he ruptured an ACL in last year's World Cup.
Captain James Slipper will also be unavailable for at least two months as he recovers from off-season shoulder surgery.
Coach Richard Graham has named openside flanker Michael Gunn on the bench as back-up for Browning, who will face a torrid challenge against Wallabies star Michael Hooper.
Browning has played 20 games for the Reds, but missed most of last season after suffering a torn ACL against the Cheetahs early in the campaign.
With Quade Cooper and Will Genia playing in France, Graham has given Nick Frisby and Jake McIntyre first crack in the halves, while code-hopper Karmichael Hunt will start at fullback and former St George Illawarra player Eto Nabuli on the wing.
Former Melbourne Rebels forward Caderyn Neville will debut for the Reds at lock, playing alongside stand-in captain Rob Simmons, while Japanese cult hero Ayumu Goromaru will start on the bench.
The Reds have been written off as a contender this season.
But Graham said the squad had worked hard in the off-season and he was hopeful of a strong showing against the Waratahs.
"We've put in a lot of hard work as a group over the last three-and-a-half months building a physical foundation, developing our game play and coming together as a squad," he said.
"We've spent the pre-season focused very much on ourselves and what we want to get out of the new season."
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