Thorn drops props for Sunwolves clash
BRAD Thorn has dumped prop twins JP and Ruan Smith from Saturday's key clash in Tokyo as punishment for going AWOL from a Reds training session.
The hard-line approach is completely in keeping with the standards the Queensland coach wants to impose to drag Reds rugby out of four seasons of failure.
The Smith brothers were conspicuous absentees from the reserves to face Japan's Sunwolves when the team was announced on Thursday.
Thorn has admirably made it harder for his team to win to make the point on standards, because standout scrummager JP Smith has been replaced by 19-year-old Harry Hoopert.
The Reds' official comment that the twins "were not considered for selection after the pair missed training commitments early in the bye week" was sparse on detail.
Both missed a morning training session at Ballymore on April 30, the day before a squad-wide six-day break for the recent bye.
In addition, JP missed a recovery session the previous day following his excellent performance in the 27-22 upset of the Lions.
Ruan did not appear in an April 29 club game for GPS after Reds HQ had slated him to play to maintain his match fitness.
GPS coach Anthony Mathison shed extra light, saying: "My understanding from Ruan was of a pre-existing family engagement, so we moved on."
Thorn's stance is significant when the Reds' slide to the doldrums in the 2004-09 period was too rarely stemmed by such strong action.
In 2004, halfback Josh Valentine was merely benched by then-coach Jeff Miller because he turned up unfit for training after a drinking bout.
Jono Lance is back at fly half for the Reds, who have swung young Hamish Stewart to fullback as reward for his strong showing against the Lions.
"With Jono back and Hamish playing well in his first start, it felt natural to pick the two of them and provide a few more options to the team in attack," Thorn said.
The absence of injured trio Scott Higginbotham, Caleb Timu and Lukhan Tui is a major worry because it strips the pack of so much ball-running clout.
Only prop Taniela Tupou now offers any line-busting crunch in the forwards, although lock Kane Douglas will be up for a big game in his 100th Super Rugby match.
Douglas is back to Wallabies-worthy form and is relishing Thorn's direct, physical blueprint.
"Milestones come second, we're here to win against a dangerous team that definitely looks its best in Tokyo," Douglas said.
"I'm pretty pumped for an awesome achievement I didn't think would come around."
Captain and prop James Slipper, back from a collarbone injury, will have to play close to 80 minutes with Hoopert as his understudy.
The Sunwolves gave the Brumbies (32-25) a fright when they visited Tokyo but gave up big points to the Waratahs (50-29) and Rebels (37-17).
Giving up 15 turnovers a game has been a regular ball-and-chain for the Japanese and rattling defence to jolt a few more will be part of any Reds' win.
Former Reds flanker Ed Quirk, a sideline spectator at Bottomley Park for the recent Easts-Sunnybank clash, is in the back row beside Michael Leitch for the Sunwolves.
REDS: Hamish Stewart, Filipo Daugunu, Chris Feauai-Sautia, Samu Kerevi, Jordan Petaia, Jono Lance, Ben Lucas, Angus Scott-Young, George Smith, Adam Korczyk, Kane Douglas, Izack Rodda, Taniela Tupou, Brandon Paenga-Amosa, James Slipper (c). Reserves: Alex Mafi, Harry Hoopert, Sef Fa'agase, Harry Hockings, Liam Wright, Moses Sorovi, Duncan Paia'aua, Aidan Toua.