The Queensland Rugby Union today announced the Bond University Queensland Country squad and coaching staff for the 2017 National Rugby Championship.
Sixteen players have been selected from Queensland Premier Rugby, with all nine clubs represented.
The squad was announced ahead of the first round of Queensland Premier Rugby finals, with seven Queensland Country players in action this Sunday as Sunnybank and Wests clash in the minor semi-final, while University of Queensland and GPS will go head-to-head in the major semi-final.
The squad features 14 players with Super Rugby experience and 21 returning Queensland Country players from last season, with the addition of a number of new talented players including scrumhalf Tate McDermott (University of Queensland), who in just his first year out of school has already represented the Australian Men’s Sevens side. Bond University’s Tai Ford will receive his first NRC call-up at the age of 27.
Three capped Test players have been named, including Wallabies allocated players Stephen Moore and Eto Nabuli, along with veteran lock Rob Simmons.
Five Australian U20s representatives have also been named in the squad, including flyhalf Hamish Stewart and young lock Harry Hockings, who will join the Reds in 2018.
The Country squad features 35 players in total, 13 of which have ties to Queensland’s country regions.
Former World Cup-winning All Black Brad Thorn has been named head coach of the side for the first time and will be joined by former Queensland and Wallabies winger Paul Carozza as assistant coach, after the pair struck a successful coaching partnership with the victorious Queensland’s U20s side earlier this year.
Thorn and Carozza coached the Queensland U20s to their second-straight undefeated Super U20s Championship title earlier this season, and with six players from that Queensland side in the Country squad, the coaches hope to implement some of the same cultural elements that underpinned the 20s campaign.
Head coach Thorn said: “We’ve put together a strong squad that has a mix of professional players and individuals who have performed in club Rugby throughout the season.
“There is also a good balance of experience as well as exciting young players who have emerged from our U20s pathway.
“We instilled a culture based around hard work, remaining humble and playing as a team, a collective unit, throughout the Super U20s Championship, and Paul and I will look to bring some of those cultural elements through to the Country program.
“We want to continue to build and develop the next generation of players in Queensland and represent the Queensland Country community in the process.
“We’re excited to take matches to regional centres once again, and hosting our first home game at Noosa Dolphins, one of the strongest clubs in country Rugby throughout the state, will be a special occasion.
The first Queensland Country home game in Round 2 will see the annual Andy Purcell Cup match between Country and Brisbane City take place at Noosa Dolphins Rugby Club on the Sunshine Coast.
Country will also host two matches at Bond University on the Gold Coast, taking on the Melbourne Rising and NSW Country, before hosting Perth Spirit at North Ipswich Reserve in their fourth and final home game.
For more information and the full Queensland Country squad, go to www.redsrugby.com.au.