Duncan Paia’aua is set for a Reds recall.
Duncan Paia’aua is set for a Reds recall.

Thorn makes changes as Reds enter Hurricane

DUNCAN Paia'aua is set for a recall to the Reds backline for the daunting mission to face the Hurricanes' dynamic style in Wellington on Friday.

A centre spot is likely to be his with top-choice centre Chris Feauai-Sautia dealing with a head knock from last Saturday's 63-28 horror show in Tokyo.

With the Reds to fly out on Thursday, Feauai-Sautia is battling time as much as anything to complete the necessary return-to-play protocols.

Paia'aua was relegated to a bit part with coach Brad Thorn's super-sizing of the centres where Samu Kerevi and Feauai-Sautia delivered a win over the Bulls two months ago.

Paia'aua does offer nimble footwork, another wide pass, speed and a good support player to elevate the Reds' limited backline.

Chris Feauai-Sautia (13) suffered a head knock against the Sunwolves.
Chris Feauai-Sautia (13) suffered a head knock against the Sunwolves.

Paia'aua is 10kg lighter than the centre he is expected to replace and sticking his tackles is all-important against the free-running Hurricanes.

All Blacks flyhalf Beauden Barrett and the Hurricanes are lethal with the ball, which includes 105kg wing discovery Ben Lam, who is Super Rugby's leading tryscorer (12).

Key No.8 Caleb Timu (ankle) is unlikely to be fit and the May 26 home game against the Highlanders at Suncorp Stadium may be a more realistic target.

Skipper Scott Higginbotham has played less than three hours of rugby for the Reds in 10 games this season because of suspension, injury and one previous return via the bench.

Scott Higginbotham has had limited game time.
Scott Higginbotham has had limited game time.

The experienced backrower trained at Ballymore on Monday and his ball-running and match sense will add greatly to the artillery the Reds can harness.

He tested his calf with 40 minutes for his club Wests in last Saturday's late 45-29 loss to premiers University at St Lucia where Bulldogs flanker-lock Jeremiah Lynch was a standout.

Friday's match is a test of character to bounce back as much as anything with the Hurricanes likely to start 20-point favourites.


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