Reds coach Brad Thorn has made no apologies for dumping Super Rugby AU hero Fraser McReight in response to ongoing defensive deficiencies plaguing the Queenslanders.
Despite the Reds last week becoming the first Australian team to beat New Zealand opposition in the new Super Rugby Trans-Tasman competition with a 40-34 win over the Chiefs in Townsville, Thorn remains unhappy with Queensland’s defence.
Flanker McReight is the biggest casualty of Thorn’s determination to stop leaking points.
Man of the match in the Reds’ 19-16 Super Rugby AU grand final win over the Brumbies last month, McReight has failed to even retain his bench spot from last weekend for Friday night’s clash against Auckland’s Blues at Suncorp Stadium.
“With Fraser, no one works harder than him,” Thorn said.
“His work ethic around the park is phenomenal. He’s a great link player, a great attacking player looking for opportunities, but the defensive side of the game is something he needs to put some work into.”
Reds flanker Fraser McReight has been dropped. Picture: Teaukura Moetaua/Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images
Back-rower Seru Uru has also been dropped from Queensland’s 23-man squad.
“Seru, I’ve been challenging him around his physicality,” Thorn said.
“He is an outstanding football player but there’s the physical side of the football game as well – it’s not touch football.
“If he gets that physical side of the game, he can be a great player because he has got all that other stuff.”
The Reds’ defensive woes are there for all to see, with the Queenslanders have conceded 137 points in their three Super Rugby Trans-Tasman matches.
“We’ve got points in us .., (but) mixing it physically and defensively on the park has been a challenge for us,” Thorn said.
“It’s something we want to pride our game on … that’s where it’s at.”
And not just for the Reds.
Thorn said the current plight of the Australian teams in the Trans-Tasman competition proved that a second year without playing against New Zealand sides following the 2020 Covid-19-affected season would have been hugely detrimental to Australian rugby.
“When you’re looking for quality of rugby, the New Zealand teams are showing you that if you turnover the ball and have some lapses, (it will cost you a) try and another try,” Thorn said.
“That’s why I was saying we had to play the Kiwis this year. We couldn’t have a second year of not playing them.
“A couple of years ago, the margins we had with New Zealand sides were under 10 points if we lost … so it’s important we play them. You want to play the best.”
Reds: Feao Fotuaika, Brandon Paenga-Amosa, Taniela Tupou, Ryan Smith, Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, Angus Scott-Young, Liam Wright (co-captain), Harry Wilson, Tate McDermott, James O’Connor (co-captain), Filipo Daugunu, Isaac Henry, Hunter Paisami, Suliasi Vunivalu, Bryce Hegarty. Bench: Josh Nasser, Dane Zander, Zane Nonggorr, Angus Blyth, Sam Wallis, Moses Sorovi, Hamish Stewart, Ilaisa Droasese.
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