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Skipper Moore out, Cooper back for Reds

NZN 12/04/2017 Laine Clark

Time spent on the sidelines may have been tough for suspended Queensland playmaker Quade Cooper.

But the returning Wallabies No.10 reckons it did help him get to the bottom of what was going so wrong with the Reds' Super Rugby season.

Cooper returns from a three-week ban against Southern Kings on Saturday, lining up in a new-look Reds team without rested skipper Stephen Moore.

Cooper could not come back soon enough for Queensland as they look to snap a six match losing streak and keep their slim finals hopes alive.

Cooper admitted it was frustrating watching the Reds' decline - they lost all three matches while he was sidelined.

However, he believed it helped him pinpoint where the battling Reds could improve.

"From my point of view we were contesting every breakdown with not too much return, putting pressure on ourselves in defence and didn't have energy to attack," Cooper said.

"So when we got fatigued we started dropping the ball.

"We need to put more emphasis on our defence, staying in the line and just reload, not wasting too much energy on lost causes."

Still, Queensland will find that easier said than done without their inspirational Wallabies skipper Moore.

Queensland coach Nick Stiles has made six changes to his starting side, headlined by the return of Cooper and fullback Karmichael Hunt (concussion).

Centre Samu Kerevi will take over as captain and rookie hooker Alex Mafi will start in place of Moore after only making his Super Rugby debut off the bench in last week's 43-10 loss to the Brumbies.

Moore has been left out of the match squad and usual back-up hooker Andrew Ready gets a recall to the bench after being dumped to club rugby last week.

"It didn't matter who we were playing this weekend," Queensland coach Nick Stiles said of resting Moore.

"It was more based around the fact that we had the bye so we could give him a good two week block to regenerate.

"We want to make sure he gets through the season playing his best football."

Lock Lukhan Tui has earned his first start of the 2017 season, in place of the benched Kane Douglas.

Nick Frisby has also returned to the match-day 23 as reserve halfback after he and Ready emerged from their club rugby exile.

The pair were savaged publicly by Stiles following Queensland's 34-15 loss to the Hurricanes on April 1 and promptly dropped.

Stiles said the pair were now back in the good books.

"I don't think you deserve to come straight back into the starting side - that would not have been fair on anyone," he said.

"But their performances on the training paddock picked up a notch and they started doing the little things I was looking for from them to get better."

Reds flanker George Smith will become just the seventh player and only the third Australian to reach 150 Super Rugby caps.

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