McGahan to debut for Reds against Waratahs

New Zealander Matt McGahan (r) will debut for the Queensland Reds against NSW Waratahs.
New Zealander Matt McGahan (r) will debut for the Queensland Reds against NSW Waratahs.

New Zealander Matt McGahan faces a torrid debut in the unfamiliar position of fullback as the Queensland Reds aim to end their long losing streak to Super Rugby rivals NSW Waratahs on Saturday.

The son of New Zealand rugby league great Hugh McGahan has been thrust into the No.15 jersey with Hamish Stewart (shoulder) injured and Isaac Lucas on Junior Wallabies duty.

The 26-year-old playmaker suffered a broken leg in pre-season after joining the Reds from Japan club rugby but has proven his fitness with a handful of games in Brisbane club rugby.

Nonetheless his first Super Rugby appearance since leaving the Blues at the end of 2016 is a high-stakes one with the Reds having lost their past 10 matches against the Waratahs.

"It's not his regular position. He's normally a 10," Reds defence coach Peter Ryan said.

"He's played there before definitely but not a great deal of time.

"His efforts and his understanding of the position are pretty good from what I've seen so far defensively.

"Him getting to the end of the line or communicating what he's doing in his role there is second to none so I don't think he'll have a problem."

McGahan is one of two changes to the Reds' starting XV from the team which fell 30-24 to the Rebels last Friday in Melbourne.

Coach Brad Thorn has shuffled his pack with Angus Scott-Young moving to No.8 while Lukhan Salakaia-Loto comes into the team in the back row and veteran Scott Higginbotham dropping to the bench.

Just one points separates the traditional rivals, who both have ground to make up on the Brumbies and Rebels in the congested Australian conference.

With a trip across the Tasman to play the Chiefs next week, Ryan admitted Saturday's match could be a decisive to the Reds' finals hopes.

"It's a big moment for us in the game this week," he said.

"It means we can either go on or we can fall by the wayside. That's completely up to our players and us as staff to ensure that doesn't take place."

The Reds went down 28-17 to the Waratahs when the two teams last met in March, a match more memorable for the state of the SCG turf than any of the action.

Ryan said a key challenge for the days leading up to the game would be keeping the young Reds team's emotions in check.

"We want to make it realistic so that we don't burn ourselves out before we get there on the weekend," he said.

"We still want to have it to the point where when they get out on the field they really want to hit everything that's out there in a blue jumper and hurt it."

Australian Associated Press