Queensland Reds

Preview: Blues v Reds – Make or Break……

Preview: Blues v Reds – Make or Break……

This Friday the back markers of the New Zealand and Australian conferences meet in the first game of the round from Eden Park. (And yes, saying that does stick in my throat……….)

With the Reds coming off a 3 game losing streak and the Blues coming off two victories it will be interesting to see who gets the upper hand. Who has more at stake, the Reds or the Blues?


The Teams

Following the defeat at the hands of the Hurricanes in Wellington last weekend Richard Graham has made 4 changes. Greg Holmes swaps into the starting line-up for Ben Daley, pushing Slipper back to the loosehead side of the scrum. JJ Taulagi pays the price for struggling with his defensive positioning being dropped to the bench with Rod Davies returning to the starting team.

Then things start to get a bit strange…… Liam Gill comes straight back into the 7 jersey in place of Beau Robinson. Love Gilly dearly and think that we have been missing his work, but after 5 weeks in Team Rehab I am not entirely sure how long he will last, or how effective he will be.Reds vs Cheetahs 2014 SSM_7194

The remaining change(s) has given the backline a right royal shuffle. Ant Faingaa’ has moved off the bench into the 12 jersey, which has meant that Mikey Harris has dropped back to fullback and Ben Lucas back to the bench. This I was surprised at. Lucas has been playing well at fullback so I am not sure of the wisdom of putting Harris there. Is it just a move to stiffen the back line defence that will need to deal with Nonu, F Saili, Halai & Piutau?

One change that did not happen was in the Halfback position. After rolling his ankle in last week’s game and being carried back to the changing rooms after the game I was surprised Will Genia was named in the run-on side. I am guessing that Quade Cooper’s milestone is the lure but I have to question the wisdom of him playing with an injury. Particularly when his form is yet to return to the heady heights that we need him at.

As for the Blues the only changes to the starting side have been necessitated by injury to Captain Braid. Brendon O’Connor has come in at 7 and Peter Saili & Kaino have swapped the 6 and 8 jerseys. This might provide one advantage to the Reds, but O’Connor is still a pretty handy player from what I have seen.

As at time of writing there is a question mark over Francis Saili following a training incident on Wednesday. If he is left out, I am guessing George Moala will move into the run on side and be replaced by either Jackson Willison or Pita Ahki on the bench. Although it will be nice to have just one Saili running at the Reds, I am not sure that the Blues will lose much in attack.

Key Match-ups

Rob SimmonsA quick glance across the team stats is not pretty reading for any Reds fan. The only place that we have the better of the Blues is in Scrum Success (89% vs 80%) so the performance of the tight five is going to be paramount. If Slipper and Holmes can get the better of Woodcock and Faumuina in the scrums, and Horwill and Simmons can continue their thieving best at line-out time, the Reds might have the chance to provide some set piece magic. The back 3 are also going to be important. With Lolagi Visinia (99kg) on one side and Francis Saili (94kg) or George Moala (98kg) on the other running at Rocket (90kg – Really?) and CFS (92Kg), the boys will be in for a long night. Combine that with Charles Piutau at fullback the Reds are going to have to put in some tackles, and make sure they stick.

Considering it is Quade’s 100th Super Rugby cap for the Reds we probably need to mention the five-eight’s as well. Quade is currently leading the comp for offloads (18) and equalcooper kicking vs force 516

top for try assists (5) significantly ahead of Simon Hickey (0 & 1 respectively). Hickey is however kicking at a success rate of 85% compared to Cooper’s 75%. The inexperience of Hickey may end up being the telling factor. Being only 19 years old and with 7 caps to his name this may be a place the Reds could apply some pressure.

The fearless Prediction

Personally I think any prediction in this year’s comp is becoming fearless. The Highlanders beat the Sharks in Durban FFS!

The Reds and Blues have managed to play each other every year for the last 7 years with the Reds coming out on top with 4 wins. However, in the current year standings the Reds are running at 3/9 with the Blues at 4/9 including a win over the Waratahs last weekend.

I don’t think the changes to the Reds side are going to turn around their fortunes so I am going the Blues by 5. (Will not be unhappy when I am proved incorrect though.)


Queensland Reds

Rugby fetishist. Reds & Wallabies supporter. Have been known to watch all grades & levels. Warning - gets fired up! And yes I am a GIRL..........

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