Ben Lucas has been handed suspended playmaker Quade Cooper’s No.10 jersey for the Queensland Reds’ Super Rugby qualifying final against the Sharks on Saturday night.
Utility back Lucas is the only change to the starting line-up that secured a bonus-point win over the NSW Waratahs last round to grab a finals spot.
Defending champions the Reds will try to put a tumultuous week behind them when they run out for the sudden-death clash in front of an anticpated 45,000-strong Suncorp Stadium crowd.
The Queensland Rugby Union were still exploring a possible appeal of Cooper’s one-match ban on Thursday afternoon after studying a transcript of Monday night’s marathon judicial hearing.
The QRU believed they had grounds to challenge Cooper’s suspension for a dangerous tackle on NSW centre Berrick Barnes but dismissed the option an hour before the Thursday 8pm appeal deadline claiming they had insufficient time.
The Reds won six from 11 games this year when Cooper was recovering from a knee injury and then won all five with their playmaker back on the field.
But the Reds have full faith in Lucas, who inspired an upset win over the Chiefs playing at No.10 in Cooper’s absence – a victory that has sparked their current six-game winning run.
“Ben has been training at 10 all week and the guys around him are very comfortable with the direction he gives the team as he has gained plenty of experience in the playmaking role during the last two seasons,” Reds coach Ewen McKenzie said.
Queensland have won 21 of their last 23 games at Suncorp Stadium.
Queensland team: Luke Morahan, Dom Shipperley, Anthony Faingaa, Mike Harris, Digby Ioane, Ben Lucas, Will Genia (capt), Scott Higginbotham, Liam Gill, Jake Schatz, Adam Wallace-Harrison, Rob Simmons, James Slipper, Saia Faingaa, Greg Holmes. Res: James Hanson, Ben Daley, Radike Samo, Beau Robinson, Jarrad Butler, Nick Frisby, Ben Tapuai.