Young flyer Jack Hardy has travelled to South Africa with a 27-man Reds squad after an injury to winger Filipo Daugunu forced Queensland to rethink their touring plans.
A member of the junior Wallabies squad, Hardy was to head into camp with the national team on the Gold Coast this week ahead of the Oceania U20 titles.
He, Isaac Lucas, Fraser McReight and the uncapped Harry Wilson were all set to be left in Queensland for the camp, with the Reds coach Brad Thorn adding Aidan Toua, Teti Tela and Jock Campbell to his touring squad.
Thorn could have taken all his young guns, although they would have had to return after a week and while he decided to leave them behind, negotiations with junior Wallaby officials led to Hardy’s late retention.
Still, Thorn is a big supporter of the junior system and hopes the Queenslanders thrive ahead of selection for the under-20 World Cup.
“We want them to really stand out and represent us well in the green and gold,” he said.
“I’m sure the experience they’ve had at this level … will be a real benefit to what they’re trying to achieve (with the junior Wallabies).”
But with Jordan Petaia already out for the season and with a question mark still hanging over Chris Feauai-Sautia (hamstring), Hardy flew out with the Reds on Sunday.
Hardy made his starting debut for the Reds against the Stormers on Friday night and was unlucky not to score, with Reds teammates twice missing the unmarked winger on their outside as tries went begging.
Thorn said he was proud for his players to represent Australia but it presented challenges for the Reds, particularly as they struggled with injury.
“Guys get opportunities. If Chris (Feauai-)Sautia and Jordan Petaia and different guys were playing, Jack wouldn’t get a go, especially for 80 minutes,” Thorn said.
“We’ve got to back them because they work hard all pre-season.
“I don’t like the thing where guys work hard and they’re never considered. If they’ve worked hard and are in that squad, we have belief in guys and back them.
“I just like backing the guys. They’ll work hard and there’s a really good spirit in the crew, no one complains when they’re not in the 23 and you respect that.”
Feauai-Sautia and Angus Scott-Young, who missed the Stormers game with concussion, have also travelled to South Africa and will be considered for this weekend’s clash against the Bulls in Pretoria.
Reds travelling squad to face Bulls and Sharks
Angus Blyth – Bond University
Scott Higginbotham – Wests
Harry Hockings – University of Queensland
Harry Hoopert – Brothers
Adam Korczyk – University of Queensland
Gav Luka – Bond University
Alex Mafi – Bond University
Brandon Paenga-Amosa – Sunnybank
Izack Rodda – Easts
Lukhan Salakaia-Loto – Souths
Angus Scott-Young – University of Queensland
JP Smith – GPS
Ruan Smith – GPS
Taniela Tupou – Brothers
Liam Wright – Easts
Jock Campbell – University of Queensland
Jack Hardy – Easts
Chris Feauai-Sautia – Souths
Bryce Hegarty – GPS
Samu Kerevi – Souths
Tate McDermott – University of Queensland
Sefa Naivalu – Norths
Dunacn Paia’aua – Norths
Moses Sorovi – Wests
Hamish Stewart – Bond University
Teti Tela – Souths
Aidan Toua – Brothers
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