Queensland veteran Will Genia set for century
Wallabies halfback Will Genia reaches the 100 game milestone for the Queensland Reds in Friday night's clash with the Highlanders at Suncorp Stadium while at the other end of the experience spectrum three debutants are poised to make their Super Rugby debuts.
Genia becomes the fourth member of the current playing roster to become a centurion and will be hoping the experience is more memorable than the night endured by James Horwill and Quade Cooper - who received their commemorative caps after the Crusaders won 57-29 in Brisbane on May 11.
"To be honest, it's my proudest achievement in rugby so far," said Genia, who made his state debut against Japan in 2006 - and his first Super Rugby game the following year.
An integral member of the 2011 Super Rugby-winning roster, the former Wallabies captain is the 29th player to collect 100 caps.
His durability has contributed to his latest accolade though injuries continue to impact on the Reds, who are desperate to avoid a seventh straight loss.
Coach Richard Graham has had to make several changes in the aftermath of the Reds 30-27 defeat by the Melbourne Rebels before a last round bye.
Former Wallabies hooker Saia Fainga'a (calf) and props Jono Owen (back) and Ben Daley (thumb) were already unavailable and then flanker Eddie Quirk joined the casualty list when he suffered a knee injury during training.
Fortunately the pack has been bolstered by the return of openside Liam Gill - who has recovered from a calf injury that will out of the bottom-placed Reds two more recent losses - and fellow international James Slipper.
The prop starts at loosehead having served a three week suspension for a lifting tackle while Gill will be eased back to action via the bench as back-up for one-test Wallaby Beau Robinson.
"The return of Slipper and Gill is a strong boost for the team, but we've obviously had a pretty tough run with injuries this season and that list has only grown over the last couple of weeks," Graham lamented.
A season-ending shoulder injury for Quade Cooper sees Ben Lucas replace the erratic playmaker at No.10 while Auckland-born rookie wing Jamie-Jerry Taulagi's defensive issues allow speedster Rod Davies to return to the run-on side.
While Genia will take centre stage during his duel with latest All Black rival Aaron Smith, the match will also be a highlight for reserve hooker Andrew Ready, prop Sef Faagase and centre Samu Kerevi.
"They have been with the program since pre-season and have worked hard throughout to ensure they were ready when the opportunity arose. If they get on the field I have no doubt they'll offer everything they can in their debut," Graham said.
Queensland Reds: Mike Harris, Dom Shipperley, Ben Tapuai, Anthony Fainga'a, Rod Davies, Ben Lucas, Will Genia, Jake Schatz, Beau Robinson, Curtis Browning, James Horwill (captain), Rob Simmons, Greg Holmes, James Hanson, James Slipper. Reserves: Andrew Ready, Albert Anae, Sef Faagase, Dave McDuling, Liam Gill, Nick Frisby, Samu Kerevi, Jamie-Jerry Taulagi.