Super Rugby teams: Shaken Reds name 2.06m teen
A SHAKEN Reds outfit will field one of the youngest lock pairings in Super Rugby history against the Highlanders.
The team announcement came less than an hour after news that veteran Reds prop James Slipper had been suspended by Rugby Australia for cocaine use.
Slipper's second positive test has resulted in a two month ban and explains his absence from last week's team, who lost 38-34 to the Hurricanes in Wellington.
That performance prompted former Highlanders and All Blacks lock Thorn to keep his team largely intact.
However, he says the time is right to unite 19-year-old Harry Hockings with four Test veteran Izack Rodda, two years his senior.
A standout Australian age group performer, Hockings will make his maiden Super Rugby start in Saturday's match in Brisbane, relegating Wallaby Kane Douglas to the bench.
Thorn said the 206cm Hockings had done everything right in eight bench appearances since his debut in round three.
"Kane had a good game last week and he has been in strong form, but we felt the time was right to give Harry an opportunity to start," Thorn said.
"He has been making great strides in his development and this is the next step for him."
One other starting change is Izaia Perese's restoration to the wing in place of Filipo Daugunu.
Flanker Caleb Timu has shaken off an ankle injury and returns on a bench featuring six forwards.
The Highlanders team is considerably weakened from that hammered 41-12 by the Waratahs last week.
All Blacks squad members Ben Smith, Luke Whitelock, Shannon Frizell and Liam Coltman are not included while brilliant No 9 Aaron Smith is on the bench as the workload of the team's Test contingent is managed.
Smith's absence means 20-year-old Josh McKay will make a high-pressure Super Rugby debut at fullback.
Blockbusting All Blacks loose forward Liam Squire returns after two months spent recovering from a thumb injury.
Alongside him on the bench is utility back Richard Buckman, who is yet to play this year because of a neck complaint.
The Highlanders will also be without head coach Aaron Mauger, who has returned to New Zealand for family reasons.
Assistant coach Mark Hammett will take the reins.
REDS (15-1): Hamish Stewart, Izaia Perese, Samu Kerevi, Duncan Paia'aua, Jordan Petaia, Jono Lance, Ben Lucas, Scott Higginbotham (c), George Smith, Angus Scott-Young, Harry Hockings, Izack Rodda, Taniela Tupou, Brandon Paenga-Amosa, JP Smith
Reserves: Andrew Ready, Sef Fa'agase, Ruan Smith, Kane Douglas, Caleb Timu, Liam Wright, Moses Sorovi, Aidan Toua
HIGHLANDERS (15-1): Josh McKay, Waisake Naholo, Rob Thompson, Teihorangi Walden, Tevita Li, Lima Sopoaga, Kayne Hammington, Marino Mikaele-Tu'u, Dillon Hunt, James Lentjes, Tom Franklin, Jackson Hemopo, Tyrel Lomax, Ash Dixon (c), Daniel Lienert-Brown Reserves: Greg Pleasants-Tate, Aki Seiuli, Kalolo Tuiloma, Josh Dickson, Liam Squire, Aaron Smith, Josh Ioane, Richard Buckman
Referee: Rasta Rasivhenge (SA)
Venue: Suncorp Stadium