Super Rugby AU: Reds vs Waratahs team news
Watch Reds vs Waratahs live on Sky Sports Action on Friday from 10am
Last Updated: 02/07/20 1:57pm
Australia welcomes the return of professional rugby union on Friday, live on Sky Sports, as the launch of Super Rugby AU brings to an end a shutdown marked by pay disputes, boardroom upheaval and redundancies triggered by the coronavirus pandemic.
The country's four Super Rugby teams and Perth-based Western Force will play in a full home-and-away competition culminating in a two-week play-offs.
The competition kicks off at Brisbane's Lang Park on Friday when the Reds host the Waratahs, live on Sky Sports Action from 10am, a clash of the country's two traditional rugby powerhouses.
Much like the national Wallabies side, both provinces have fallen on hard times in recent years but the Waratahs have dominated their northern neighbours with a winning streak dating back to 2013.
However, Brad Thorn's Reds are confident of ending the streak against the rebuilding Waratahs and are keen to give their fans a reason to test the cap of 25,000 permitted at Lang Park under lightened social distancing restrictions.
Barring the Brumbies, Australia's teams struggled in Super Rugby and the Wallabies' steady decline since their run to the 2015 World Cup final was evident during their quarter-final exit from the tournament in Japan last year.
Rugby Australia (RA) are hoping a number of law variations borrowed from rugby league, the more popular code in Australia, could contribute to a better spectacle in Super Rugby AU and fire up the faithful.
New Zealand has also tweaked rules to speed up the game for its domestic 'Super Rugby Aotearoa' competition, which has proved a success despite some huge penalty counts since kicking off last month.
The rules may be a bit different but class should ultimately prevail, meaning the Dan McKellar-coached Brumbies remain favourites to win the domestic title.
They kick off their campaign in Canberra on Saturday, live on Sky Sports from 10.10am, when they host the Melbourne Rebels, a team forced out of their home state of Victoria due to a coronavirus spike.
Many neutrals will throw their support behind Western Force, who have a bye in the first week. RA axed the Force from Super Rugby at the end of the 2017 season in a polarising decision that angered many in Western Australia.
Now backed by mining billionaire Andrew Forrest, the Force hope to be the "feel-good story" of the competition and have recruited a slew of former Wallabies to show they mean business.
First up, it's the Reds vs the Waratahs on Friday, with team news below:
Reds: 15 Bryce Hegarty, 14 Jock Campbell, 13 Hunter Paisami, 12 Hamish Stewart, 11 Filipo Daugunu, 10 James O'Connor, 9 Tate McDermott; 1 Harry Hoopert, 2 Brandon Paenga-Amosa, 3 Taniela Tupou, 4 Angus Blyth, 5 Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, 6 Liam Wright (c), 7 Fraser McReight, 8 Harry Wilson.
Replacements: 16 Alex Mafi, 17 JP Smith, 18 Josh Nasser, 19 Tuaina Taii Tualima, 20 Angus Scott Young, 21 Scott Malolua, 22 Chris Feauai Sautia, 23 Josh Flook.
Waratahs: 15 Jack Maddocks, 14 James Ramm, 13 Alex Newsome, 12 Joey Walton, 11 Mark Nawaqanitawase, 10 Will Harrison, 9 Mitch Short, 1 Angus Bell, 2 Robbie Abel, 3 Harry Johnson-Holmes, 4 Ned Hanigan, 5 Rob Simmons (c), 6 Lachie Swinton, 7 Michael Hooper, 8 Will Harris.
Replacements: 16 Tom Horton, 17 Tetera Faulkner, 18 Tiaan Tauakipulu, 19 Tom Staniforth, 20 Jack Dempsey, 21 Michael McDonald, 22 Ben Donaldson, 23 Tepai Moeroa.