A groin injury has cost Queensland’s longest serving current player Chris Feauai-Sautia the chance to cap off the Reds’ resurgence with a win in Saturday night’s Super Rugby AU grand final.
As expected, Feauai-Sautia was on Thursday not named in Queensland’s 23-man squad for the decider against the Brumbies in Canberra after succumbing to the groin problem that forced him off in the Reds’ 25-13 semi-final win over the Rebels last Saturday at Suncorp Stadium.
Making matters worse for the 26-year-old winger is that he cannot travel to Canberra with the squad because of COVID-19-enforced restrictions on the number of people permitted on the Reds’ chartered flight.
It’s a bitter pill to swallow for Feauai-Sautia, who debuted for the Reds as a teenager in 2012, the year after Queensland’s most recent Super Rugby success.
Injuries have hurt Feauai-Sautia during his Queensland career, and he’s again the victim of misfortune.
His spot in the starting side has gone to centre Hunter Paisami, with Jordan Petaia – who has overcome a bout of concussion – to shift from the centres to the wing.
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🏉: Brumbies v Reds
📍: GIO Stadium
🗓: 19 September
⏰: 7:20pm AEST
📺: Live on Fox Sports & Kayo pic.twitter.com/AyI0NqdHCY
— Queensland Reds (@Reds_Rugby) September 16, 2020
“He’s disappointed,” Reds coach Brad Thorn said of Feauai-Sautia.
“He’s very valued, very respected, probably our longest serving Red – it’s like eight or nine years.
“But being the sweet, humble guy he is, he’d just be happy for the guys that are in those spots, and for the team and wanting the best for them.
“He’s got a big heart, Chris Sautia, if you know him.
“It’s nice having him at this club, but he’ll be cheering on.”
The Reds have made one other change to their starting team, with prop JP Smith replacing Harry Hoopert, who has been dropped to the bench.
Elevated to the bench are prop Ruan Smith and utility back Jack Hardy.
“There are a lot of guys available and that’s part of the battle … getting to the back end of the year, that war of attrition, hopefully having little injuries, having most men on deck,” Thorn said
“I feel like we’re going to pick a competitive team … we’re embracing the challenge ahead against a worthy opponent, whom we respect.
“Our journey to get here started back in November with our Reds to Regions trip across Queensland.
“We’ve reconnected with our state. They believe in us and we want to make them proud this weekend, plus achieve something together as a group.
“Many of our guys in this group have come through our pathway and club rugby – they’ve thrived and have grown as men during this year.”
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