Fraser McReight is more focused on replacing Liam Wright in the back row than as Queensland Reds captain.
The young Wallabies talent was tossed up as an option by Tim Horan to fill in for the injured Wright, who could miss up to 10 weeks with an ankle injury.
But it will be reformed rugby renegade James O’Connor leading the Reds onto Suncorp Stadium in Friday’s Super Rugby AU opener against the NSW Waratahs.
Still 21, McReight said it was the right call for a rebuilt side that lost last year’s domestic decider to the Brumbies.
“It’s nice to hear (Horan’s endorsement) but I’m not worried about it one bit,” he said.
“It’s my second year properly in the side and whilst Wrongas (Wright) is out there’s a little bit more responsibility for everyone; we’ve all got to step up.
“I’m really excited for James and it’s a pretty cool story to do the full 360 (after a series of off-field issues saw him twice leave Super Rugby for Europe) and I’m pretty proud for him and honoured to run out behind him on Friday.”
Former under-20 Australian captain McReight earned a Wallabies debut under new coach Dave Rennie last year and was deliberately paired with fellow flanker and captain Michael Hooper on his arrival in camp.
He was initially stepping on eggshells around the skipper thanks to a teammate’s prank that had him preparing for the worst.
“It was a bit uncomfortable for me at first, given he’s competition (for a spot) and he’s the Australian captain and he’s played 99 Tests at that stage,” McReight said.
“The boys were trying to stitch me up but he was really welcoming and said if I needed anything he was there for me so I tried to soak it up like a sponge.”
With long-time Waratah Hooper playing in Japan this season and Wright on the sidelines, McReight has a chance to establish himself as one of Super Rugby’s premier backrowers.
The Highlanders have been dealt an injury blow less than a fortnight out from their Super Rugby Aotearoa season-opener.https://t.co/KQ2qCGtRe2
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) February 15, 2021
He said Hooper’s never-ending thirst to improve served as a good reminder for a Reds side eager to turn their talent into the club’s first title since 2011.
“We showed last year we can do it, so this year we put a line in the sand, there’s no more of that (rebuilding) talk,” he said.
“We want to win this competition, and the Trans-Tasman (competition due to follow it) as well.
“But there’s so much hard work we have to do before there’s any thought of winning.”
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