Queensland Reds coach Brad Thorn hasn't lost faith in Isaac Lucas, saying the decision to start James O'Connor at No.10 was designed to ease the pressure and ideally transform him into a late-game match winner.
O'Connor will play five-eighth and Lucas will come off the bench for the third-straight game on Saturday - their first at home this Super Rugby season - against Japan's Sunwolves.
Thorn said Lucas, who has just turned 21, understood he was still part of the grand plan and acknowledged his use of the bench would be crucial as they look to break a run of three losses to begin the season.
"Part of it was just de-pressuring Isaac ... he's going to continue to get time there off the bench.
"He's an outstanding talent and the way he plays, in that back 30, 20 minutes he brings something there as well."
Hamish Stewart's form at No.12 has also allowed O'Connor, who started the season at outside centre, the opportunity to remain in the halves alongside the in-form Tate McDermott.
Stewart was in Lucas's shoes last season when he started at No.10 before shifting to fullback and then finding himself on the bench to begin the 2020 season.
"I think Eddie Jones said in the World Cup, it's not the game it used to be; it's 23 men and guys outside the 23 as well," Thorn said in defence of his backline rotations.
Thorn also channelled his former Brisbane Broncos NRL mentor Wayne Bennett at Friday's captain's run when asked about the lopsided 13-3 penalty count that went against them in their loss to the Jaguares in Argentina last weekend.
"Excuses are for losers, he used to say," he said.
"We are in the pursuit of excellence for 80 minutes and we haven't achieved that.
"There are things that occur, but let's get our game right and you'll find with talent that's there we'll come out on the right side of those results."
Junior Wallabies backrower Fraser McReight also returns to the bench for the Reds after a thumb injury, with Thorn confident he can play alongside captain and fellow No.7 Liam Wright if the situation calls for it on Saturday.
Australian Associated Press