Queensland Country team named for Ballarat game

Six changes have been made to the Queensland Country starting XV from the team that went down to Sydney last weekend at Woollahra Oval.

In the forwards, prop Harry Hoopert returns to take on Melbourne in Ballarat having missed last weekend’s clash.

Backrower Dillon Wihongi will start at openside flanker having come off the bench in Sydney.

Warwick Water Rats product Will Dearden will make his NRC and Queensland Country debut starting in the second row alongside Harry Hockings.

In the backs, GPS stalwart Jonathan Kent will also make his NRC and Queensland Country debut on the left wing, while Chris Feauai-Sautia will return at outside centre, having been a late withdrawal from last weekend’s match.

Tom Lucas will also earn his first start of 2019 at fullback, seeing Jock Campbell shift to the right wing.

“We’ve worked hard this week to address some of the key learnings we took from last weekend’s loss to Sydney,” coach Rod Seib said.

“We got beaten in the contact zone last weekend, so we’ve been focused on trying to improve our physicality and accuracy around our ball carry and ruck work.

“This weekend the team have the chance to turn the result around and try to find the form that we showed in Round 2 against Canberra.

“As we said last week, one of the key strengths of our squad is depth and we will see a few more players get their opportunity to impress this weekend.

“Will Dearden has come through the NRC U19s Country program to the senior squad this year and will earn his first cap this weekend. A true Country product from Warwick, his selection is fitting.

“Jono Kent will also make his debut in the starting line-up, he has been big for team culture off the field for us so far throughout the NRC campaign and it will be great to see him pull on the jersey this weekend.

“In the reserves, we’ve been waiting to bring Jethro (Felemi) into the squad so his return is timely. He was one of the standout frontrowers throughout the Premier Rugby season so he will help strengthen our prop stocks.

“I’m really happy to give Conor (Chittenden) the opportunity to pull on the Country jersey this weekend. Conor has been one of the most impressive centres in Premier Rugby for the last three-four years but is yet to crack the next level of the game.

“Given the serious nature of the head injury he sustained last year in a skateboarding accident, it was uncertain whether he would play Rugby again so it’s been great to see him work his way back into form for Norths this year and earn selection this weekend.”

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