Smith: Attack not the issue at the Reds
TEENAGE fly-half Hamish Stewart's Reds promotion ahead of exiled Quade Cooper is just part of a revolution bigger than any one player, says veteran George Smith.
Injuries to stand-in skipper James Slipper (collarbone) and No 10 Jono Lance (concussion) have forced Thorn to drastically shuffle his pack ahead of Saturday's clash with the Lions.
Recovering well from December back surgery, flanker Smith will start for the first time this season as 19-year-old Stewart and 18-year-old winger Jordan Petaia both earn run-on Super Rugby debuts.
Smith has been impressed by Stewart's booming boot and physicality, labelling him a potential long-term prospect at No 10.
His rise is another nail in the coffin of former Wallabies playmaker Cooper, who has been wiped from coach Brad Thorn's plans.
But Smith said it was too simplistic to dwell on Cooper's omission as the club endured widespread change.
"I've spoken to Quade and we speak about normal things rather than football ... that conversation (about his Reds snubbing) has already been determined by Brad," Smith said.
"Is it a new era? If you look across our team there's a number of new players, so you could say it is but not in terms of Quade.
"There's a list of players who aren't in the team from last season and that's the way things develop in time."
The Reds will have 11 players aged 21 or less in the squad to play the Lions on Saturday, while their squad's average age of 24 is the youngest in Super Rugby.
First-choice skipper Scott Higginbotham (calf) remains on the sidelines, making 37-year-old Smith's return all the more crucial.
Smith says he feels great after playing most of the second half in a big loss to the Chiefs.
But he doesn't buy in to suggestions the side's attack is to blame.
"It's been written that our attack hasn't been great, but everything's built on defence and last week, especially early, it wasn't great," he said.
In-form centre Samu Kerevi will assume the captaincy while former Brumbies prop JP Smith will start for the Reds for the first time in Slipper's absence.
Dalby 19-year-old Harry Hoopert is a chance of making his debut, while Adam Korczyk and Duncan Paia'aua also return to the bench.
Reds players will wear socks from their school or club in recognition of Rugby Family Round, which celebrates grassroots football.