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'They're really here to compete': Reds wary of 'tough' Drua

By AAP
Fijian Drua celebrate after a try during the round three Super Rugby Pacific match between Fiji Drua and Crusaders at Churchill Park, on March 11, 2023, in Lautoka, Fiji. (Photo by Pita Simpson/Getty Images)

Not that they needed one, but the Queensland Reds have received a warning shot from Fijian Drua’s momentous defeat of the Crusaders.

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An after-the-siren kick got the Drua home against the defending Super Rugby Pacific champions in Lautoka on Saturday and the tremendous buzz generated by that result will carry all the way to Suncorp Stadium next Sunday afternoon.

The Drua’s lack of late-game composure was all that denied them a huge upset in Brisbane last year at a ground that has been a stronghold for the Reds under coach Brad Thorn.

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The Reds were up 28-9 with 18 minutes to play but needed a series of miracle plays from their own Fijian star Seru Uru to escape with a 33-28 victory.

“You look at that game, (we had a) comfortable lead, sniffing for bonus points, took our foot off the gas and suddenly we were at risk of losing the match,” Reds backrower Liam Wright reflected on Tuesday.

“And that’s how quickly they can turn it.

“(Victory against defending champions the Crusaders) showed that they’re really here to compete.

“Last year they were a really tough opponent but that showed the level they’ve stepped up too…they’re ready to finish games, which is where they fell apart a bit last year.

“It’s just a warning sign really.”

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The Reds are 1-2 after a tough loss in Canberra against the Brumbies last time out, but Wright is buoyed by the form of fit-again five-eighth James O’Connor and quietly confident in his own health.

“You saw his complete understanding of what you want from a fly-half,” Wright said of O’Connor, who came off the bench to replace Tom Lynagh for the second week in succession.

“His new energy and speed as well … was fully on show.”

Wallabies hopeful Wright has endured a wretched run of injuries and began the year on the bench with a concussion for round one.

But he has produced 80-minute performances in his last two games.

“I don’t want to talk too early, but I’ve already played more minutes than all of last year,” he said.

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“That’s big for me, two 80-minute performances.”

Wright said where once he battled anxiety and worry about performance, he has learned not to take playing for granted.

“It’s renewed love for all that stuff; I just remind myself now I could be sitting on the sidelines watching … it’s good to be out there,” he said.

“But I’m not going to speak too soon; I’d like to go three, four, five games in a row before I feel like I’m back in the swing of things.”

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