Duncan Paia'aua celebrates scoring against the Sunwolves last season. Picture: AAP
Duncan Paia'aua celebrates scoring against the Sunwolves last season. Picture: AAP

Departing Reds star aims to make sudden impact

REDS regular Duncan Paia'aua is to take up a lucrative three-year deal with French giants Toulon but not before devoting himself to Queensland's best campaign of his five-season run.

Paia'aua is still just 24 and should be hitting his prime as a Super Rugby factor so it is disappointing that another 30-40 game player is being lost to the Australian system.

The sharp midfield back will again be used as a super-sub at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday night when the Reds will need all their firepower and calm tactics to upset the champion Crusaders.

He is being used as a change-of-gear late in games. The Rockhampton-bred product played the final minutes at inside centre last Friday night against the Highlanders which pushed Samu Kerevi to outside centre and boom colt Jordan Petaia to the wing.

In any World Cup year, the rugby market gears for a flood of top Test players post-tournament so some not at that level, like Paia'aua, jump early so not to miss out on the prime clubs.

Paia'aua has weighed that up in this decision as well as the Wallabies' prospects that all players dream of.

His call-up by coach Michael Cheika for the non-cap Wallabies XV-Barbarians clash in Sydney in 2017 was a high point but it has also proved a pivotal moment of a different kind.

Reds star Duncan Paia'aua is off to France at the end of the season. Picture: AAP
Reds star Duncan Paia'aua is off to France at the end of the season. Picture: AAP

"The coach (Cheika) has given me no feedback, literally not said a word to me, since that game so things look pretty shut (for higher levels)," said Paia'aua, who played as an experimental flyhalf in that game.

"I'm aiming at a big year for the Reds and the team's effort has come through in the pre-season and that first game in Dunedin.

"We want to keep the good stuff going.

"I've decided to test myself overseas after this season so that'll be it for a while although I'll still be viable at 27 when I return after three years."

 

Paia'aua and wife Sunny are already taking French lessons twice a week at the University of Queensland so they are turning their next adventure into variety during the full-on Super Rugby season.

Scott Higginbotham is available for selection. Photo: AAP.
Scott Higginbotham is available for selection. Photo: AAP.

The Reds hit the Highlanders with real intensity last Friday night but coach Brad Thorn is in no doubt that more is needed against his old club on Saturday: "We have to step up another level again.

"That was one round of 16 so we switch on again."

In upbeat news, influential former Wallaby No.8 Scott Higginbotham (shoulder) and key prop JP Smith (knee) are both available for selection after injury.

Smith's scrummaging value at loosehead prop to keep the pressure on is a major asset but the Reds will need to do that all over the park against a Kiwi team which has played some breathtaking rugby since the start of 2017.

Former Reds flanker Ed Quirk will be sidelined from Sunwolves duty for up to 10 weeks with surgery needed to repair knee ligament damage he sustained against the NSW Waratahs last weekend.