Reds full of fire power

Queensland Reds may be missing seven Qantas Wallabies, but they have still been able to select a matchday 23 that contains 12 internationals boasting 127 caps between them to face the British & Irish Lions at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday. [more]

Reds full of fire power

Queensland Reds may be missing seven Qantas Wallabies, but they have still been able to select a matchday 23 that contains 12 internationals boasting 127 caps between them to face the British & Irish Lions at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday.

The third game of the 125th anniversary tour sees the Lions go up against a team celebrating its 130th birthday and looking for something special with which to mark the event.

The Queensland side of 1971 were the last provincial side in Australia to beat the Lions and director of coaching Ewen McKenzie's players will be looking to cut their slice of history out of the birthday cake.

"We've spoken as a group about the significance of these opportunities and there isn't a player out there who wouldn't want to replicate the heroics of the 1971 Queensland side," said McKenzie, who played for Australia B against the 1989 Lions.

"History suggests that's a mammoth challenge, but we'll go out there on Saturday with plenty of good intentions and with a commitment to giving a strong account of ourselves across the entire 80 minutes. Playing against the Lions is a once in a career type opportunity, so to be running out in front of a sold-out Suncorp Stadium crowd on Saturday night will be an experience these 23 players will never forget.

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"Our approach was always going to be to field as strong a line-up as possible and I've got every confidence in the group we've chosen to go out and compete against a very talented Lions squad. Our best rugby in the four years I've been here has always been played at Suncorp Stadium.

"That means we have the venue we like, a full-house and quality opposition. We tend to play our best football against the best teams, so all the ingredients are there for us to do well and we are in the best place we can be. Now we'll find out if it is good enough.

"Our Tuesday training session, given the amount of changes we've had, was probably the best we've had all season. I just hope we haven't played our game in training. "

"You are always looking for opportuntiies to grab a little bit of history ,and the fact Queensland has done it before is a great thing, but you can count on one hand the number of provincial teams who have beaten the Lions. If you want to make a name for yourself as a player or as a team, which we are interested in doing, then this is the moment."

"They have their strengths, but at the 30 minute mark in Perth it was only 10-0. The Force had four opportunities, didn't take them and turned over the ball on each occasion – you have to make the most of the moments as you go along and be clincial.

"Rugby is a brilliant game and affords you opportunities to play in many different ways. We have now got to come up with a challenging game plan that will some pressure on the Lions.

"We will be out there determined to give it a go. We have got the strongest team we can find. We have three Wallabies sitting on the bench. In some positions we are really strong, while in others we are giving players debuts, but all of those guys have been training with us since last October and they will be itching for a game.

"There is a lot in the game and everyone knows that outside the Test matches it is historically diffiuclt to beat the Lions. So if you can do that you are in pretty decent company."

Having studied the videos of the Lions opening two wins, and taken Warren Gatland at his word about playing everyoen in the opening three matches, McKenzie reckons he knows 90% of the starting oline-up his team will face at the weekend.

"We've had an inkling of their team and I would be surprised if we are not 90% right. They were pretty good and expressed themselves. I thought the backs played pretty well. They made good inroads and showed some power," said McKenzie.

"The sin-bin was costly for the Force and that's why the scoreboard went away from them in the end. But the fact they were able to score two tries against the Lions is encouarging – for everyone!

"I just hope Leigh Halfpenny isn't playing against us because his goalkicking was exceptional on Wednesday night. The one thing we haven't done this year is take all our chances.

"If there is any luck in this sport then the wheel will turn for us on Saturday night. I don't think we have played our best game of footie yet this season – that's still ahead of us."

The Reds will take an all-Test front row into the battle, Ben Daley, James Hanson and Greg Holmes, and will have two players in the back row who have played in all 15 Super Rugby games to date this season, Eddie Quirk and Jake Scatz.

Outside half Quade Cooper has been another ever-present in the Super Rugby season and he will have exactly the same back line with him that picked up a bonus point win over the Melbourne Rebels at Suncorp Stadium last weekend apart from scrum half Will Genia.

Nick Frisby, who has played 16 times for the Reds, will deputise for Genia at No 9 and McKenzie has handed two young front row men, Sam Denny and Jono Owen, the chance to make a dream debut off the bench against the Lions.

Also included on the bench is the 23-times capped back row man Radike Samo, who played against the 2001 Lions for the Brumbies. Former Ulster and Leinster lock Ed O'Donoghue, who toured Australia with Ireland, fills in at second row in the absence of James Horwill and Rob Simmons.

Queensland Reds (v British & Irish Lions)

15. Ben Lucas

14. Rod Davies *
13. Ben Tapuai *
12. Anthony Faingaa *
11. Luke Morahan *

10. Quade Cooper *
9. Nick Frisby

1. Ben Daly *
2. James Hanson *
3. Greg Holmes *
4. Adam Wallace-Harrison
5. Ed O'Donoghue
6. Eddie Quirk
7. Beau Robinson *
8. Jake Schatz

16. Albert Anae
17. Sam Denny
18. Jono Owen
19. Radike Samo *
20. Jarrad Butler
21. Jono Lance
22. Mike Harris *
23. Dom Shipperley *

* Qantas Wallaby

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