Frustrated Red set to take it Tui Blues
WALLABY Lukhan Tui will be drafted into the Queensland Reds' backrow for the first time in 10 weeks on Friday night with a "good to go" tick from coach Brad Thorn.
The giant forward's positive Test effort against Ireland last Saturday night had extra value when considering it was his first 80-minute showing of the season.
He cranked out the majority of his big ball-carries (nine runs for 49m) in the second half surge and certainly his most forceful hit - on Irish centre Bundee Aki.
Tui, 21, has never looked leaner or fitter and his use as a blue-chip lineout target against the Irish also suggests he is the frontrunner at blindside flanker for the Bledisloe Cup Tests in August.
Tui is eager to perform for the Reds after a frustrating campaign limited to just three outings because of suspension, knee surgery and falling back in the pecking order.
Friday night's visit to Auckland's Eden Park to face the Blues, now Super Rugby has reignited, is an ideal setting for a little calculated rage to run out that frustration.
"Lukhan had really played no footy to speak of this season so he's good to go after getting into it for 80 minutes in a Test," Thorn said.
Thorn was delighted with what hooker Brandon Paenga-Amosa and backrower Caleb Timu learnt from their Test initiations against a top Irish pack.
"There were plenty of rugby people who didn't know who Brandon was this time a year ago and here he is with three Test starts tucked away," Thorn said.
"He was comfortable scrummaging at that level and you could see how his lineout throwing improved after just a week to learn all new calls for his first Test.
"I was really proud of him and likewise with Caleb, who will take a lot of confidence from playing at Test level."
The eye-catching progress that prop Taniela Tupou has made under Thorn and scrum coach Cameron Lillicrap translated big-time to Test level.
Tupou was the dominant tight-head supersub who generated key scrum penalties in the first and third Tests.
"He's a force and I just want all these boys to keep loving it, stay humble and keep growing through the three important games that the Reds still have to play," Thorn said.
Powerful centre Chris Feauai-Sautia is an unfortunate scratching for the Reds' remaining games after surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee.
He is on crutches and faces a two-month spell after being twisted awkwardly in a tackle while playing for his club Souths.
It means the Duncan Paia'aua-Samu Kerevi centre pairing will operate against the Blues.
NSW Waratahs skipper Michael Hooper (hamstring) and Melbourne Rebels counterpart Adam Coleman (groin) will both miss the key clash in Melbourne on Friday night because of injuries sustained against Ireland.