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Reds facing the prospect of back-to-back to showdowns with kings of Super Rugby

By AAP
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Queensland don’t know whether to pack for two days or 10 but are ready for anything at the pointy end of the Super Rugby Pacific season.

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Sitting seventh on the ladder heading into the final round, the Reds fly to Christchurch to take on the second-placed Crusaders.

If the ladder positions don’t change they will remain in New Zealand to again take on the Crusaders in the quarterfinals.

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Predicting the Super Rugby Pacific play-offs.
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Predicting the Super Rugby Pacific play-offs.

It’s a big ask with the Reds needing to break an 11-year, eight-game drought against the Crusaders.

Only three points split the Reds, Waratahs (sixth) and Hurricanes (fifth) going into the last round, with the latter two playing Saturday night.

“It’s interesting – we’ll find out Saturday night,” Queensland coach Brad Thorn said on Wednesday.

“Whatever’s in front of us the most important thing is being in finals footy – a new competition, what will be, will be.”

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“It’s a tough task with the Crusaders as they’ve been a champion team for so long.”

Queensland co-captain Liam Wright will make his return via the bench after injuring his ankle in Round 7, but that good news is tempered by the loss of playmaker James O’Connor with a hamstring tear.

Lawson Creighton is at 10 with Thorn feeling he will be better for his stint earlier this season during another O’Connor injury.

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“Obviously losing James is disappointing but Lawson comes in this time having experienced starting against different sides and he’s excited.”

Jordan Petaia has been shifted infield to No 13 to cover for Josh Flook’s shoulder injury.

Meanwhile, the Waratahs have made five changes to their forward pack for a home clash with the ladder-leading Blues on Saturday night.

Ned Hanigan will start at lock after his impressive cameo off the bench in his first match back for the Waratahs since arriving from Japan.

The Waratahs are looking to back up their 32-20 victory over the Highlanders last round in Dunedin.

“Ned comes into the starting team as his performance last week off the bench was just too good to leave out,” said NSW coach Darren Coleman.

In other matches, the Brumbies look to fine-tune their game ahead of finals against Moana Pasifika at home on Saturday afternoon before the Western Force host the Hurricanes.

The Force need a win to clinch the last spot in the playoffs while the Rebels take on the eighth-placed Highlanders on Sunday.

– Melissa Woods

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