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Queensland Reds announce squad for tour of Japan



The Queensland Reds have confirmed their 27-man touring squad ahead of next month’s inaugural Queensland-Saitama Shield match against the Saitama Panasonic Wild Knights in Japan.

Following the completion of the Queensland Rugby Challenger Series, seven players from outside of the Reds program – Connor Anderson, Phransis Sula-Siaosi, Jake Upfield, Sam Wallis, Joey Fittock, Ben Navosailagi and Louis Werchon – have been selected to tour and potentially earn a Queensland cap.

After captaining the Reds Development XV, Angus Blyth will lead the side against the reigning League One premiers, while Wallabies duo Harry Wilson and Suliasi Vunivalu will also travel to face the Robbie Deans coached outfit.

Reds head coach Brad Thorn said: “The Challenger Series was a great success.

“We got to see Queensland’s best club talent back playing rep footy. There needs to be more of it in the future.

“Congratulations to the men who will tour Japan. It’s a special opportunity to earn a cap for their state.  

“Seven club players will travel with us, we’re excited to reward them and see what they bring. I’d like to acknowledge Ethan Dobbins and Paddy James, who would have toured if not for injury.

“We’re pleased to have Harry and Suli back. Harry won the Pilecki Medal as our best player this season and Suli is a proven match-winner – he brings x-factor. They’ll be great for our team.”

Reds General Manager of Professional Rugby Sam Cordingley said: “We’re looking forward to travelling to Japan to play our partner the Saitama Panasonic Wild Knights.

“After the Challenger Series, it’s another valuable opportunity for our group to develop as a team on the field, something that has been lacking in recent years.

“It’s a unique chance for a number of club players to represent Queensland on tour.

“The StoreLocal Hospital Challenge Cup is our greatest talent provider, and we feel a great connection to the competition, so it’s pleasing to see these players get an opportunity.

“We would like to thank the Australia Japan Foundation and Trade and Investment Queensland for their significant support of this tour.”

18 players with Super Rugby experience have been named to tour, including Richie Asiata, Ryan Smith, Seru Uru, Isaac Henry and Vunivalu who have recently returned from Australia A duties in Japan.

The tour will also feature a warm-up clash against Japan’s third-best team, the Kubota Spears Funabashi Tokyo Bay, before Queensland face the Saitama Panasonic Wild Knights on Friday 4 November at Kumagaya Rugby Stadium.

Thanks to the support of the Australia Japan Foundation and Trade and Investment Queensland, the Wild Knights will travel to Queensland in 2023 to play the corresponding fixture for the Saitama-Queensland Shield.

The Saitama Prefecture, located in the Greater Tokyo Area, shares a sister state relationship with Queensland, with the Reds last touring the country to face a Saitama XV in 1991. The match featured the likes of Tim Horan, Jason Little, John Eales and Paul Carozza, while the Wild Knights’ General Manager Hitoshi Iijima also played.

 Queensland Reds Japan Tour

Queensland Reds v Saitama Panasonic Wild Knights – Friday November 4th, Kumagaya Rugby Stadium, Saitama

Queensland Reds Japan Tour Squad


  • Connor Anderson – Wests

  • Richie Asiata – Easts
 George Blake – Bond University
 Wilson Blyth – Bond University

  • Angus Blyth – Bond University
 Sef Fa’agase – University of Queensland

  • Matt Faessler – Brothers

  • Zane Nonggorr – Bond University
 Ryan Smith – Brothers

  • Phransis Sula-Siaosi – Souths

  • Jake Upfield – Bond University

  • Seru Uru – Wests

  • Sam Wallis – University of Queensland
 Harry Wilson – Brothers

  • Dane Zander – University of Queensland


  • Floyd Aubrey – GPS
 Lawson Creighton – Brothers
 Joey Fittock – Bond University
 Josh Flook – Brothers

  • Mac Grealy – University of Queensland

  • Isaac Henry – Wests

  • Spencer Jeans – Bond University
 Tom Lynagh – University of Queensland

  • Ben Navosailagi – Wests

  • Kalani Thomas – University of Queensland

  • Suliasi Vunivalu – Wests

  • Louis Werchon – Brothers

Content & Images from – Queensland Reds Rugby

Super Rugby

Family the motivator for Whitelock’s French move



The 2023 Super Rugby Pacific season will be Samuel Whitelock’s last with the Crusaders.


The veteran Crusader and All Black has taken up a two-year deal with Section Pau in the South of France, where he’ll link up with younger brother Luke Whitelock who joined the Top 14 club in 2019.


“Hannah, the kids and myself are going to head to France to play with my little brother Luke,” Whitelock said.


“I’ve had the privilege of playing with family for Canterbury, the Crusaders and the All Blacks at different stages and this opportunity was too good to pass up.”


Whitelock debuted for Canterbury in 2008 and the Crusaders in 2010. He is Crusader #142 and has currently played 176 games for the franchise – second only to Wyatt Crockett (203). He’s been a part of six championship campaigns and captained the side for several seasons.


“I want to say thank you to everyone for their support through the years, it’s been absolutely immense,” Whitelock said.


You’ve helped me grow, you’ve helped me develop as a player”, but most importantly as a person.”


There are few players in Crusaders history who have made a mark like Sam Whitelock. A mainstay for generations of fans, his presence on the field brought confidence to both the playing group and the fans.


The same could be said for his impact on the All Blacks, having earned many All Blacks caps as captain and respect across the globe as a rugby role model.


Scott Robertson, Crusaders Head Coach, said Whitelock was an “iconic rugby player” who had taught him a lot throughout his coaching career.


“He’s iconic because of his consistency in form at all levels, spanning three decades and being at the top of his game throughout that time,” Robertson said.


He said Whitelock’s game understanding and “his ability to win big moments in big games” set him apart.


“He has an innate ability to connect the group and know what needs to be said at the right time on and off the field.”


“He’s a great mate and a pleasure to coach.”


“If there’s one player who lives the Crusaders culture it’s him, through consistency, his daily habits and his leadership.”


Whitelock will join Pau after the Rugby World Cup.

Content & Images from – Crusaders Rugby

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Super Rugby

Team Naming: Whitelock Back for Waratahs Game



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The Crusaders have named their side to face the Waratahs in Round 14 of Super Rugby Pacific ’23.


It’s the team’s last home game of the regular season before we get into finals. Kick off is Saturday at 4.35pm.


Codie Taylor takes up captaincy with Scott Barrett making the most of a rest week before some big showdowns. He’s joined in the front row by Kershawl Sykes-Martin and Tamaiti Williams.


Sam Whitelock returns this week, itching to take the field after a few weeks sidelined by injury. Both Codie Taylor and Scott Robertson spoke on Thursday morning about looking forward to having his leadership and wisdom back on the grass.


The dynamic duo of Mitch Drummond and Richie Mo’unga return at halfback and first five, their routine well-polished by now.


Look for some antics and acrobatics from Leicester Fainga’anuku and Dallas McLeod on the left and right wings, and a safe pair of hands at the rear with Fergus Burke as fullback.


Reuben O’Neill is set to make his Crusaders debut off the bench this week, the current Taranaki and former Chiefs player bolstering the front row stocks. He’s slotted in well with the team during trainings, Robertson saying he was “familiar to us” and helped relieve the burden on a front row depleted by injury. Brodie McAlister and Seb Calder make up the rest of the replacement front row.


The Crusaders go into this one second on the table, the Waratahs in sixth. There’s no discounting an Aussie side still within reach of a home quarter if the cards fall right for them. Expect a big contest.

Content & Images from – Crusaders Rugby

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Super Rugby

Farewell to a legend



The Highlanders will use the last home game of the year against the Reds on Friday 26th May to farewell Aaron Smith – their most capped player ever. All things going to plan Smith should play his 184th game against the Reds.

Smith joined the club in 2011 at the behest of the then new Highlander’s coach, Jamie Joseph, having previously been in the Blues wider training group, the rest as they say is history.

Widely recognised as one of the best halfbacks in the game his performances over the years have left fans, fellow players and the media in awe of his consistency, energy, skill level and competitiveness.

However, all good things come to an end and on Friday 26th May at 7.05pm Smith will suit up in his Highlanders jersey and run out of the stadium tunnel to be greeted by a home crowd for the last time, from next year he is signed to play in the Japanese League.

Highlanders CEO Roger Clark appreciates it will be a significant moment in the club’s history.

“Aaron has given so much to the club and rugby public in this region. Saying good-bye is not a moment that many will be looking forward to, but he so richly deserves this one last opportunity to sign off an amazing Highlanders career in front of his home crowd.  No doubt It will be a very special occasion for Aaron, Teagan and his children Luka and Leo, we hope it will be a night to remember for all.”

Head Coach Clarke Dermody acknowledges it will be an extra special night for his All-Black halfback.

“He’s been leading our team around the park for the last decade or so and he epitomises everything that a professional player should be – always prepared, highly skilled, competitive, and passionate about his team. He deserves all the recognition he gets, and he has worked very hard for it. Knowing Aaron, he will treat it like any other week, go through his routines, preparing accurately and give it his best on the night. I know I won’t be alone in reflecting on his enormous contribution to rugby in our region as his last home game comes to an end.”

Fans will have another opportunity to watch the master in action when the Highlanders take on the Rebels this Saturday at 4.35pm.

Book your seat to witness history here 


Content & Images from – Highlanders Rugby

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