Reds likely to avert player exodus

Under-siege Queensland look likely to avert an exodus of key players despite the defection of Wallabies lock Nathan Sharpe to Perth.

The Reds have been buoyed by promising prop Greg Holmes signing a new two-year deal, while hooker Stephen Moore has also agreed to stay in Queensland.

Both players have rejected offers to follow Sharpe to the new West Australian Super 14 franchise, and the Reds also hope to keep lock Hugh McMeniman despite a big West Australian offer.

Like McMeniman, former Australian Under-21 prop Holmes made his Super 12 debut for the Reds this season and already has two bustling tries to his name.

Coach Jeff Miller said on Wednesday the commitment by Holmes is a great boost for the Reds, who continue their South African trip against the Bulls in Pretoria on Saturday.

“Greg is an excellent young player with a tremendous future in the game and it is terrific that he wants to stay and play in Queensland,” he said.

Although Holmes is staying, former Wallabies winger Ben Tune is expected to sign next week with West Australia, where the promise of a starting spot awaits.

Tune, on the comeback trail from double knee surgery, is back on the bench for the Reds against the Bulls in place of winger Peter Hynes, who has flown home to Brisbane with a knee problem.

Flanker Daniel Heenan is back in the Reds starting line-up in the place of Tom McVerry, who has been shifted to the bench.

Nic Berry makes his starting debut in place of injured halfback Josh Valentine, with Brett Sheehan brought in as back-up scrumfeeder.

Lock Rudi Vedelago returns to the bench at Luke Doherty’s expense.

“We have brought Daniel Heenan back into the team because we will need his physical presence against the Bulls,” Miller said. “It’s the same with getting Vedelago back on the bench.”

Vedelago and Doherty are expected to join West Australia next season, while youngsters Scott Daruda and Digby Ione could also be tempted west.—Sapa-AAP

Reds: Chris Latham, Wendell Sailor, Junior Pelesasa, Steve Kefu, Drew Mitchell, Julian Huxley, Nic Berry, John Roe (captain), David Croft, Daniel Heenan, Nathan Sharpe, Hugh McMeniman, Greg Holmes, Stephen Moore, Nick Stiles.

Reserves: Sean Hardman, Rodney Blake, Rudi Vedelago, Tom McVerry, Brett Sheehan, Brock James, Ben Tune.

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