Reds' Digby Ioane to start for 50th Super cap

HALF-CENTURY: Reds wing Digby Ioane will start in his 50th Super Rugby match against the Blues on Friday night.
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HALF-CENTURY: Reds wing Digby Ioane will start in his 50th Super Rugby match against the Blues on Friday night.

Queensland Reds coach Ewen McKenzie has reverted a breakdown strategy employed successfully against the Brumbies earlier this month by utilising dual openside flankers in the defending Super Rugby champion's starting line-up to face the Blues at Eden Park tomorrow night.

Liam Gill and Beau Robinson were named today in the loose trio with Scott Higginbotham, a selection that mirrors Pat Lam's approach after he chose the Braid brothers Daniel and Luke on the side of a Blues scrum depleted by the loss of All Blacks Jerome Kaino, Tony Woodcock and Keven Mealamu.

McKenzie used the same tactic when the Reds beat the Australian conference leaders 20-13 in Brisbane on April 6 and felt it was also to right tactic to tackle the battling Blues.

"Starting the game with Liam and Beau worked well for us against the Brumbies, we finished the match with a season-high 27 forced turnovers.  We see similar opportunities against the Blues and believe they are the best combination to commence the match," he said.

Versatile back rower Ed Quirk provides cover on the bench at the expense of cult figure Radike Samo who was omitted from the tour party as he struggles to replicate his 2011 form.

Meanwhile, Wallabies wing Digby Ioane returns from a five-week suspension to shore up a midfield weakened by the loss of Ben Tapuai, who joined the growing casualty list during last weekend's loss to the Stormers.

Ioane, who missed four games after upending Sharks flanker Marcell Coetzee, finally plays his 50th game for the state.

"Digby has been a man possessed at training during his suspension and is raring to go," McKenzie said.

"Everyone is excited to have him back and he couldn't have returned at a more timely moment with the Blues being such a crucial game."

Ioane combines with former North Harbour five-eighth Mike Harris against the imposing figures of Ma'a Nonu and Rene Ranger in what shapes as an influential match-up.

Anthony Faingaa also returns on the bench after a nine-week lay-off with a foot injury as midfield cover.

In the other enforced change to the line-up beaten 23-13 by the leading South African side Ben Lucas is promoted from the reserves to start at first five-eighth for Sam Lane, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in the opening minutes.

Although the Blues are languishing at the bottom of the table, the 10th-placed Reds are a pale imitation of their championship-winning vintage and McKenzie expected a close encounter.

"It's also only a matter of time before the Blues click," he said.

While the under-achieving Blues have copped five straight losses, on a positive note they were close to toppling the Highlanders and Sharks in their previous two games.

Queensland Reds: Luke Morahan, Dom Shipperley, Digby Ioane, Mike Harris, Rod Davies, Ben Lucas, Will Genia; Scott Higginbotham, Liam Gill, Beau Robinson, James Horwill (capt), Rob Simmons, James Slipper, James Hanson, Ben Daley. Res: Albert Anae, Greg Holmes, Adam Wallace-Harrison, Jake Schatz, Ed Quirk, Nick Frisby, Anthony Faingaa.

Fairfax Media