• Preview: Reds vs Force

    The stuttering giants will come up against the resurgent upstarts in Brisbane on Saturday.

    The 2014 season is turning out to be a bit of a mixed bag for the Reds. There was a hard-fought win over the Stormers last week, their third of the season, but it was far from convincing.

    Injuries have played a role in the make-up of the backline and do so once again this weekend against the Force, with Jamie-Jerry Taulagi making his debut. There's no Aidan Toua, Chris Feauai-Sautia or Lachie Turner – starters the three of them – and that's part of the reason why the Reds' attack has looked a little wayward in recent times. Similarly in the pack Liam Gill has fallen to injury, the tenacious young openside a key figure at the breakdown the Reds now must do without.

    No one is expecting the Reds to repeat their title success from 2011, which shows how things have slipped off. The squad depth is full of young but unproven talent, as Cooper and Will Genia and James Horwill work to haul the team back to the top.

    It doesn't help the Reds that the Force are tearing up the form book. Three wins from five matches actually puts the Force above the Reds in the Australian conference.

    Their season was kickstarted by the first-half thrashing handed out to the Rebels in their third match and they haven't looked back, taking down the Chiefs in Perth a couple of weeks ago. Put it down to the effort of their pack, which is majorly boosted this week by the return of Ben McCalman at No 8.

    Much of the talk following the Rebels thrashing was of doing it for Matt Hodgson, the Force skipper. Hodgson has been a beast this season around the ruck area and in defence, setting the tone for a pack full of physical bodies such as Wilhelm Steenkamp and Sam Wykes, who are starting to dictate close contests. Nathan Charles' exploits should also catch the eye of Wallabies selectors.

    Nick Cummins is the Force's best player and best finisher out on the wing, but aside from him their attack lacks sparkle, making the fewest metres and carries so far of any team in the tournament. That will have to change if they are to compete seriously for honours, but you can't deny their spirit.

    Reds – 15 Ben Lucas, 14 Rod Davies, 13 Ben Tapuai, 12 Mike Harris, 11 Jamie-Jerry Taulagi, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia, 8 Jake Schatz, 7 Beau Robinson, 6 Eddie Quirk, 5 James Horwill (c), 4 Rob Simmons, 3 Greg Holmes, 2 James Hanson, 1 James Slipper
    Subs: 16 Albert Anae, 17 Pettowa Paraka, 18 Jono Owen, 19 Ed O'Donoghue, 20 Curtis Browning, 21 Nick Frisby, 22 Anthony Fainga'a, 23 Jonah Placid

    Force – 15 Jayden Hayward, 14 Luke Morahan, 13 Solomoni Rasolea, 12 Kyle Godwin, 11 Nick Cummins, 10 Sias Ebersohn, 9 Alby Mathewson, 8 Ben McCalman, 7 Matt Hodgson (c), 6 Angus Cottrell, 5 Wilhelm Steenkamp, 4 Sam Wykes, 3 Kieran Longbottom, 2 Nathan Charles, 1 Pek Cowan.
    Subs: 16 Heath Tessmann, 17 Tetera Faulkner, 18 Ollie Hoskins, 19 Adam Coleman, 20 Brynard Stander, 21 Ian Prior, 22 Zack Holmes, 23 Marcel Brache.

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    Photo: Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images

    Post by

    Simon Borchardt