The Australian Rugby Union (ARU) has locked away 2 key members of the Wallabies’ forward pack – re-signing the experienced Reds duo James Slipper and Rob Simmons.
The signatures of the 2 talented tight forwards are significant for the future of Australia.
Slipper agreed to a new 3-year deal, through until the end of 2018, while Simmons has also inked a multi-year extension – through until the end of 2017.
Despite his young age of just 25, Slipper and Simmons, 27, have already accumulated a combined 113 Tests between them for Australia.
Both also hold leadership positions at either the Wallabies or Reds.
Slipper and Simmons, who were announced earlier this year as the captain and vice-captain of the Reds, grew up playing together on the Gold Coast at the Southport School.
Cocaine-tainted code-hopper Karmichael Hunt will make his 1st start for the Reds since his 6-week ban, when he dons the No 15 jersey against the Bulls at Loftus on Saturday.
Hunt is one of 6 changes for the beleaguered Reds, with injuries and suspensions playing their part.
Lock Rob Simmons will play his 1st game of the 2015 season this weekend, returning from a shoulder injury to take his place in the starting side.
Simmons replaces James Horwill, who is serving a 1-week suspension for striking.
Saia Fainga’a returns to the starting side, with James Hanson moved to the bench.
Injury to Jake Schatz has forced a shuffle in the back row, with Curtis Browning starting at blindside flank and Adam Thomson shifting to No 8.
In the backs, injury to Quade Cooper means Nick Frisby resumes the role of starting flyhalf.
A recurrence of a calf injury has ruled out James O’Connor, meaning Lachie Turner shifts to the wing and Hunt returns to the starting lineup at fullback.
The struggling Reds have left former Australian skipper James Horwill behind as they departed for South Africa on Sunday, following his 2nd Red Card of the Super Rugby season.
Horwill received a 1-match suspension after being sent off in the 21st minute of the Reds match against the Melbourne Rebels in Melbourne on Friday, and he would have been ineligible for the 1st of the Reds’ 2 games in South Africa.
The Reds play the Vodacom Bulls in Pretoria on Saturday and the Toyota Cheetahs in Bloemfontein a week later.
Horwill’s Red Card for striking Melbourne Rebels prop Paul Alo-Emile with a swinging arm in a maul proved costly as the 14-man Reds gave up a 12 / 3 lead to lose 23 / 15.
The beleaguered Reds have now lost 6 of their opening 7 games, and their woes have been compounded by the loss of Wallabies playmaker Quade Cooper for another 2 months after he fractured his right shoulder blade against the Rebels.
Queensland Rugby Union today announced prop James Slipper will captain the Reds for the 2015 Super Rugby season.
He will be supported in the role by two new vice-captains in Reds and Wallabies lock Rob Simmons and recent signing Karmichael Hunt.
Slipper takes over the role with the blessing of incumbent captain James Horwill, who after a number of discussions agreed the best long-term outcome for the future success of the Reds was to step down and allow the growth of the leadership within the team.
In 2014, Slipper was recognised by his Queensland teammates as the Pilecki Medal winner for Players’ Player of the Year and also claimed the Rugby Union Players’ Association Medal for Excellence – which is voted on by all Super Rugby players.
He was also vice-captain of the Wallabies throughout the 2014 Test season and said he was honoured to be given the title of Reds skipper.
“I’m incredibly humbled by this decision. I take great pride in playing for Queensland, so to be named captain is a great honour,” Slipper said.
Wallaby forward Rob Simmons has been chosen at blindside flank in the only change made to the Australian starting line-up for Saturday’s second year-end Test against Italy at Stadio Olimpico.
Australian lock Rob Simmons had his ban for a dangerous tip-tackle during the Wallabies defeat by France this month cut from eight weeks to five weeks, following an International Rugby Board appeal hearing in Bristol, south-west England.
The ARU will appeal Wallabies lock Rob Simmons’s eight-week suspension for a lifting tackle on French forward Yannick Nyanga in Paris two weeks ago.
Australian lock Rob Simmons and New Zealand flanker Adam Thomson who both played for the their countries last weekend and were cited following acts of foul play will both be missing from their respective teams’ lineups this weekend. However, that is where the similarities end as Thomson received a one week ban for his stamp on Scotland’s Strokosch’s head, while Simmons received an eight week ban for a ‘tip/spear’ tackle on France’s Yannick Nyanga.