JUAN COTE and LANCE FREE go ‘Head to Head’ in this week’s preview of the Reds v Force match. Sunday arvo’s match in BrisVegas could be a BBQ stopper.
LANCE: “I’m going out on a limb here and picking the Force to win this one because of three things (1) the Reds will be favourites (2) history, and (3) downright desperation”.
JUAN: “Force to win my arse – they couldn’t tackle their way out of a wet paper bag. Based on recent form the Reds will comfortably bring home the bacon”.
It’s David Hill’s turn to be designated the new black but I’m not too sure whether that’s entirely appropriate.
Sure, at his peak he was an All Black ‘one test wonder’ but he’s getting on a bit now and has recently been residing in a Japanese rest home.
In his day he was a good organiser, could kick and provided some degree of tactical leadership to his team, the Waikato Chiefs. I think that this guy is a reasonable buy but like Barty (out injured again) is nearing pensionable age.
He’ll be kicking for field position a lot on Sunday and this might not be a bad thing if the weather forecast is accurate.
The Force have had the bye to develop some combinations……which is good; however, it’ll probably take more than one game to piece it all together with ‘Benny’ in charge.
The fact of the matter is the Force don’t have any more chances up their sleeve. This is it, the final countdown, finito.
If they lose on Sunday it’s goodnight nurse and there’s no chance of finishing anywhere near the pointy end of the Super 14 competition (a near impossible task anyway).
And that’s one of the reasons why I think they might just pull it off. They will be desperate to win this game.
Their forward pack are missing a few big names but so far they’ve generally done the job at the set piece and the breakdown. It’s the backs that have been flaky.
With Hill at 10 and ‘Rabbit’ O’Connor now restored to arguably his best position (at 12), more opportunities will be created for Ryan Cross and his mates outside.
And the Reds? History isn’t on their side. The last time they strung two winning games together was way back in 2006.
The Force hammered them last year but that’s not going to happen this week. The fact that the Reds are the favourites is a warning bell to me. Look what happened against the Blues when the hopes got up.
In other changes Pekahou pays the price for being played out of position and Ryan Tyrrell is his replacement (ironically a converted flanker). Stanford gets a run-on gig at No 8 with Wykes into the second row for Hockings. Haylett-Petty is the new fullback.
Temporary signing Jono Jenkins (Sydney Uni and Australian Sevens) is the bench flanker.
They’ll be hoping that as St Patrick’s Day approaches the rub of the green will fall their way, to be sure.
The Reds get their second chance at back-to-back wins in two weeks and you’d think this time, they are specials to make it happen.
There is plenty of talk around that the Force might be some sort of “bogey team” but realistically, they are at the bottom of the table and a long way from being anywhere but.
The return of Marcia and Diggers strengthens the Reds backline and these two players will test the one-on-one defence of the Force which so far this year has been awful.
In their first three games the Force have missed an average of 28 tackles per match so plenty of direct ball running will feature in the Reds approach to the game you’d expect.
By contrast the Reds defence has been outstanding and was the deciding factor in both their wins against the Crusaders and Chiefs.
Where the other Australian teams employ a sliding defensive type structure, the Reds are defending more like a South African team by getting off the line quickly and jamming the outside attackers.
Tactically Ewen McKenzie has been ahead of the pack in tweaking his game plans to suit the opposition and it speaks volumes that generally the Reds have been able to adapt to these plans.
With Diggers moving to outside centre and the flying Luke Morahan retaining his place in the starting side, albeit on the wing, things are certainly looking as though the Reds are out to make this one count.
Despite periods of good play in all their games so far this year, the Reds are yet to put together a complete performance however I think that situation will be put right this weekend – the same as the long awaited two wins in a row.
LANCE: “This is a danger game for the Reds. Force to win by 5”.
THE COTE: “Defence will win them the game. Reds by 15”
Force: 1. Nic Henderson 2. Ryan Tyrrell 3. Tim Fairbrother 4. Sam Wykes 5. Nathan Sharpe (c) 6. Ben McCalman 7. Matt Hodgson 8. Richard Stanford 9. Brett Sheehan 10. David Hill 11. Nick Cummins 12. James O’Connor 13. Ryan Cross 14. Scott Staniforth 15. Dane Haylett-Petty
Reserves: 16. Pek Cowan17. Matt Dunning 18. Tom Hockings 19. Jono Jenkins 20. Chris O’Young, 21. Sam Harris 22. Mitch Inman
Reds: 1. Ben Daley 2. Saia Faingaa 3. Laurie Weeks 4. Rob Simmons 5. Van Humphries 6. Scott Higginbotham 7. Daniel Braid 8. Leroy Houston 9. Will Genia 10. Quade Cooper 11. Brando Va’aulu 12. Anthony Faingaa 13. Digby Ioane 14. Luke Morahan 15. Peter Hynes
Reserves: 16. Sean Hardman 17. Greg Holmes 18. Adam Byrnes 19. Jake Schatz 20. Ben Lucas 21. Morgan Turinui 22. Will Chambers
Get your official G&GR Match Day Team Listing here.