Paisami in early return for Reds' crunch Super test

·2-min read
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Hunter Paisami is back a week earlier than expected, the Test centre named on the bench for the Queensland Reds' high-stakes clash in Dunedin with the Highlanders.

James O'Connor (concussion) will also return, while Tom Lynagh will start ahead of Lawson Creighton in the No.10 as the Reds look for their first win at the rowdy Forsyth Barr Stadium since 2013.

Paisami had initially flagged his return from a medial ligament injury in his knee in next week's final round against the Fijian Drua.

But after missing eight Super Rugby Pacific games he's been added to the bench for Friday's crucial clash, where the seventh and ninth-placed sides will effectively battle for a finals berth.

The clash will also serve as a home farewell for the Highlanders' Japan-bound halfback Aaron Smith.

"Huge inclusion having Hunter back in the fold, regardless of how many minutes he'll get," Reds co-captain Tate McDermott said.

"Just his presence on the training paddock and hopefully a bit of punch late in the game ... he's worked hard to get back a week early."

McDermott said Lynagh's job was to kick well and be vocal in his first start since round three and that O'Connor's calming influence in his return at inside centre would help the side.

The seventh-placed Reds (5-7) have endured a difficult season in Brad Thorn's last campaign in charge.

But a win over the previously unbeaten Chiefs two weeks ago - their first in New Zealand for 10 years - offered some light.

They are still likely to need victories over the Highlanders and the Drua on the road to remain in the top eight.

Thorn had success using his regular front and back-row starters as bench impact players in that momentous defeat of the Chiefs.

But it backfired against the Blues in Brisbane last week and the coach has responded by recalling forwards Peni Ravai, Matt Faessler and Zane Nonggorr to start the game.

Harry Wilson is also back in the starting side after doing his best to influence the contest off the bench over the last fortnight.

QUEENSLAND REDS: Peni Ravai, Matt Faessler, Zane Nonggorr, Angus Blyth, Connor Vest, Liam Wright, Fraser McReight, Harry Wilson, Tate McDermott, Tom Lynagh, Mac Grealy, James O'Connor, Josh Flook, Suliasi Vunivalu, Jock Campbell. Bench: Richie Asiata, Dane Zander, Sef Fa'agase, Jake Upfield, Seru Uru, Kalani Thomas, Lawson Creighton, Hunter Paisami.