Reds name team for opener
Reds boss Ewen McKenzie has rewarded the strong pre-season form of centre Aidan Toua with a starting berth in Saturday's Super Rugby clash with the Brumbies in Canberra.
Toua will wear the number 13 jersey in the absence of Anthony Fainga'a, who has been ruled out with ligament damage to his hand.
The Reds are primed to continue their recent winning form of three victories from the past four Super Rugby matches against the Brumbies.
McKenzie will inject flyer Toua at outside centre following impressive pre-season form and his standout performance in the Reds number 13 jersey during a 20-13 victory over the Brumbies in 2012.
He joins vice-captain Ben Tapuai in the midfield while Dom Shipperley has won the hotly contested race for the wing position opposite Digby Ioane with goal-kicking ace Mike Harris rounding out the back-three at full-back.
Playmaker Quade Cooper also makes his return to action after missing last year's play-off loss to the Sharks through suspension and will join scrum-half Ben Lucas in the halves.
Prop James Slipper will captain the Reds as part of a starting front-row which includes Greg Holmes at loosehead prop and Saia Faingaa at hooker.
In the absence of injured skipper James Horwill, locks Rob Simmons and Adam Wallace-Harrison will commence the game in the second-row while Reds College lock Ed O'Donoghue has earned a place on the bench.
The Reds will boast a young yet talented backrow with Wallaby Liam Gill at openside flanker, Eddie Quirk at blindside flanker and Jake Schatz packing down at the back of the scrum at number eight.
McKenzie has opted for a traditional 4-3 split on the bench with Albert Anae, James Hanson, Jarrad Butler and O'Donoghue covering the forwards and Nick Frisby, Jono Lance and Chris F'Sautia the backs.
"There are a lot of factors that dictate selection, including experience, but we also try to acknowledge current form," McKenzie said.
"Guys such as Aidan Toua and Eddie Quirk haven't played a lot of Super Rugby but have put their hand up during the preseason.
"We've got some very strong ideas on how we want to play the Brumbies and the entire group has understood since Monday the role they play in that. We've had a great preparation."
Reds: 15 Mike Harris, 14 Dom Shipperley, 13 Aidan Toua, 12 Ben Tapuai, 11 Digby Ioane, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Ben Lucas, 8 Jake Schatz, 7 Liam Gill, 6 Eddie Quirk, 5 Rob Simmons, 4 Adam Wallace-Harrison, 3 James Slipper (c), 2 Saia Faingaa, 1 Greg Holmes
Replacements: 16 Albert Anae, 17 James Hanson, 18 Ed O'Donoghue, 19 Jarrad Butler, 20 Nick Frisby, 21 Jono Lance, 22 Chris F'Sautia
Date: Saturday, February 16
Kick-off: 19:40 local (08:40 GMT)
Venue: Canberra Stadium
Referee: Andrew Lees (Australia)