Reds switch rookie for Super Rugby clash

Vince Rugari

He might be learning the Super Rugby ropes but rookie Jordan Petaia won't be out of place in arguably the game's toughest defensive position, according to Queensland Reds teammate Izack Rodda.

Petaia has been thrust into the No.13 jersey for Friday's clash with the Melbourne Rebels at Suncorp Stadium to cover for the stinging loss of Samu Kerevi, who had surgery on a ruptured bicep earlier this week and is unlikely to play again this year.

With Chris Feauai-Sautia, Izaia Perese and Ben Lucas already sidelined, coach Brad Thorn was left with little choice but to turn to the 18-year-old, who is playing his first season with the Reds.

Banished utility Karmichael Hunt would have been a perfect fill-in but Thorn won't consider him under any circumstances because of his recent off-field indiscretions.

Hunt, who is contracted until the end of 2019, can't even get a game in Queensland Premier Rugby with numerous clubs understood to have turned away approaches from the code-hopper, who wants to return to the playing field.

His loss is Petaia's gain, with Rodda backing him to make the most of the opportunity.

"It's definitely big shoes to fill. (Kerevi) was just starting to come into some good form for the Reds and Wallabies," Rodda told reporters.

"But what I've liked about Jordy all year is ... he just rips in and it just looks like it doesn't bother him out there.

"It's like he's been playing for three, four years."

Petaia has started Queensland's last six matches on the wing but is naturally an outside centre and highly-rated at Ballymore.

Thorn has made three other changes to his starting side, with Test lock Rodda returning from a neck injury, Caleb Timu promoted to No.6 from the bench and Filipo Daugunu replacing Petaia out wide.

Timu's elevation shunts Lukhan Tui to the reserves, where he'll be joined by utility back Teti Tela, a mature-aged recruit who is in contention for a Super Rugby debut at 27.

The Reds can end Melbourne's hopes of a finals berth with a win on Friday and are seeking a strong finish to a season that started strongly but has tailed off badly with only one victory in their last 10 outings.

Queensland Reds: Jono Lance, Filipo Daugunu, Jordan Petaia, Duncan Paia'aua, Eto Nabuli, Hamish Stewart, Moses Sorovi, Scott Higginbotham (c), George Smith, Caleb Timu, Kane Douglas, Izack Rodda, Taniela Tupou, Brandon Paenga-Amosa, JP Smith. Reserves: Alex Mafi, Harry Hoopert, Ruan Smith, Lukhan Tui, Angus Scott-Young, Tate McDermott, Teti Tela, Aidan Toua.