Queensland Reds coach Ewen McKenzie believes his side will rise to the occasion when they take on The British & Irish Lions in Brisbane on Saturday.
The Reds welcome Warren Gatland’s men to the Suncorp Stadium three days after the tourists’ put 69 points on the Western Force but McKenize is confident the 2011 Super Rugby Champions will put up a much better fight as they go in search of yet another special night in the state capital.
“The bigger the crowd and the bigger the opponent, the better we’ve done. That’s the set of circumstances that I like,” said McKenzie.
“We do our finest work here (at the Suncorp Stadium). We’ve got a very good success rate here.
“We’ve put all our efforts into going out there and winning the game. I haven’t been with Queensland once where we’ve gone out there to mitigate the score or to come second.
“We recognise the strengths of The Lions and what they bring. We haven’t seen the best of them yet and we haven’t seen all tricks that they’ve got either – we know that’s all there.
“But clearly, with the way they’ve been selecting, they’re still mixing it up and having a look. They’ve had to deal with a fair amount of travel and there are circumstances there which we can play around with.
“They’re finding a pathway through these first three games and hopefully we can get something out of that: the fact that they need to give everyone a go. The fact that everyone is still theoretically in with a chance of a Test spot means they need to go out and individually show what they’ve got.
“So there’s a space there for us to operate in in terms of putting pressure on and that will be part of the plan.”
Britain and Ireland’s elite were 42-10 winners the last time they faced the Reds back in 2001 but they were beaten 15-11 by Queensland in the same city in a mini-Australian stop off at the start of the 1971 tour to New Zealand.
McKenzie is desperate to see the current crop of Queenslanders match the class of ’71 by becoming one of a rare number of non-international sides to beat The Lions on modern-day tours.
The former Waratahs and Stade Francais boss needs no reminding as to how special Saturday’s fixture really is and that message has been regularly drummed into his players in the lead up to The Lions’ second fixture in Oz and their third on tour.
Ewen McKenzie led the Reds to the 2011 Super XV title and now he wants another slice of history
“It’s a unique set of circumstances. Not many teams outside of the Test teams beat The Lions, so you put yourself in pretty unique company if you can engineer a result,” added McKenzie.
“I look for challenges in the game. It doesn’t matter whether I was playing or coaching, I look for the one-off opportunities where you can do something that other people don’t. I get excited by creating bits of history.
“The Reds’ journey in the last four years has been about grabbing trinkets along the way, one offs, firsts, things like that. We’ve done just about everything we can in terms of creating firsts and bits of history so, when you look at The Lions and the fact that they’re only here every 12 years, there’s a really fantastic bit of history there that can be grabbed.
“Not many people have done it recently. The New Zealand Maori did it, Australia A did it last time over here outside of the Test arena and those two teams were basically national representative sides in a different context.
“We never hear the end of Munster beating the All Blacks and those sort of moments so there are bits and pieces you can grab if you’re good enough on the night.
“The excitement of sports is in the things that aren’t meant to happen. There’s nothing that I’ve read this week that tells me we aren’t supposed to lose tomorrow, so we’re excited about the prospect of proving a couple of people wrong.”