The Brumbies say they will beat Queensland up front, but Reds coach Brad Thorn is challenging his star-studded backline to live up to its rich potential in a bid to cause a boilover in Saturday night’s Super Rugby AU showdown in Canberra.
It is the 2020 grand-final rematch featuring the competition’s only two unbeaten sides this campaign but the Reds remain clear underdogs at the Brumbies’ GIO Stadium fortress.
Queensland have not won in Canberra in seven years, while the Brumbies have lost just one of 19 against all comers in the national capital since 2019.
“Set piece is going to win it for us,” Brumbies winger Andy Muirhead said on Friday.
“They’re quite a physical team and we know what to expect when they come down here.
“We’ve been training pretty physically for the past two months so we’re very well prepared for a tough physical game on the weekend against a big side.”
Thorn knows nothing less than the Reds’ best will suffice to get the competition points to keep pace with the early-season table-toppers.
“It’s a very important game against last year’s champions,” he said.
“We know they’re a tough team, we know they’re playing really good footy and we’re just looking forward to that challenge.
“From our end, we haven’t been happy with where we’re at.
“Just our error rate – unforced errors – and we’re looking to getting our game in better space and we get a chance against a really good opposition to do that.”
Thorn has applied the blow torch to his highly-rated test midfield pairing of Jordan Petaia and Hunter Paisami.
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He wants to see more improvement in both players’ kicking and passing games to complement their powerhouse running.
Throw in classy playmaker James O’Connor, 2020 Wallabies debutants Filipo Daugunu and Tate McDermott, and code-hopping star Suliasi Vunivalu and the Reds’ backline boasts some serious strike power.
Thorn, though, scoffed at suggestions his 2021 line-up was already among the most dynamic backlines he had been involved with, pointing out he had played with the great Brisbane Broncos outfit of the 1990s and then the mighty Crusaders and All Blacks.
“I’ve been in some pretty good sides,” he said.
“You look at (Steve) Renouf, Alf (Langer) and Kev (Walters at the Broncos).
“I’ve been fortunate to play with Dan Carter, Ma’a Nonu and Conrad Smith.
“So I wouldn’t get too carrried away there … You can have names on paper but it’s how they work together.
“There’s some specimens there, with Jordy, Hunter and Filipo. Suli is continuing his learning and this will be another step, and that centre combination we saw a touch of in the Test series.
“So we’ll keep pretty grounded there, let’s see some actions around how we play because like I said we haven’t been happy.”
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