Reds coach says let’s get show on the road
Road warriors or road kill? The Reds' no-excuses mantra will be tested to the full when Friday's visit to Canberra starts a taxing 33,000km travel stretch.
The toughest first-up schedule for any team in Super Rugby awaits the Queenslanders, with three games on three continents to start the season.
Coach Brad Thorn sees the sunny side of tackling the Brumbies, the Lions in Johannesburg (February 8) and the Jaguares in Buenos Aires (February 16) as a three-game tour.
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"Our start is pretty solid with three away games and a trip around the world," Thorn said. "The way I see it, doing that trip early is a good one to get the guys connected and real tight so we are looking forward to it.
"A lot of our guys are coming into their third season now and you want to see potential start to be reached."
Plenty hinges on a strong first-up showing on Friday night in a city where Thorn's players have copped heavy defeats in 2018 (45-21) and last year (40-27).
The Reds showed some excellent cohesion in two good trial wins but so did the Brumbies in their 45-14 success over Melbourne Rebels in Albury on Thursday night.
Both sides are still putting together the final pieces of the pack.
Wallabies lock Izack Rodda (ankle) and prop JP Smith (knee) did not play a minute of the trials but their training has all been angled toward being ready to play in Canberra.
"I'll be back into contact training this week so I'm looking to be ready to go," Rodda said.
Added Thorn: "Izack probably could have played two weeks ago but we've been wanting to get him fully right for this game."
One upbeat aspect to the Reds' trials was getting such positive minutes from two new back-up players.
Young Norths prop Dane Zander scrummed strongly as a starter in both games in Smith's absence.
Wests outside centre Hunter Paisami made his mark as a bull-at-a-gate runner by shedding the tackles of NSW pair Rob Simmons and Jed Holloway to set up Jock Campbell's try in Dalby on Friday night.
The Brumbies have lost back-up prop Les Leulua'ial'i-Makin for the season after he ruptured his achilles tendon while playing in Japan just before his return to the club.
It will force veteran Wallaby James Slipper to play as a tighthead prop at times to cover the loss.
"It's been a few years since I played the position early in my career and I'll just be covering behind Allan (Alaalatoa)," Slipper said.
"Having a guy like Scott Sio in the front-row with me made it pretty easy to give it a go in the scrums against the Rebels.
"We can't wait until Friday night and I have been one to watch a bit of the Reds (in their trials) to know they've been very impressive and their young squad has some confidence."
By contrast, the Brumbies start with three home games at GIO Stadium and the opportunity to get a buzz building in Canberra.