Queensland Reds fired up for Brumbies
April 15, 2013
Quade Cooper answered critics against the Chiefs © Getty Images
Queensland Reds' angst at Wallabies selection snubbings will add extra spice to Super Rugby's most pivotal Australian derby of 2013 in Brisbane on Saturday night.
The table-topping Brumbies and second-placed Reds each rate the Rod Macqueen Cup battle at Suncorp Stadium as their toughest match of the regular season after both produced crucial wins in New Zealand over the weekend.
But Queensland prop Greg Holmes, 29, said there would be even more motivation after the Wallabies' 30-man squad for the two-day logistics camp in Sydney included just seven Reds. In comparison, 11 Brumbies - including six uncapped players - made the cut. Holmes, No. 8 Jake Schatz, five-eighth Quade Cooper and winger Dom Shipperley are among those who could consider themselves most unlucky to miss an invite.
"I would have thought we would have had a lot more players than we did in there," the former Wallabies loose-head said. "Preliminary squad or not, I think we deserve to have a few more players. The Brumbies have had a good start to the year as well so you can't say those guys don't deserve it, but it's pretty hard to leave some of our guys out they have."
Holmes, who played the last of his 13 Tests in 2007, has 95 Super games to his credit and has started every match this season as the Reds have built up a 6-2 record. But Brumbies prop Scott Sio, 21, has swept into the squad on the back of the Brumbies' 6-1-1 start along with fellow bolter and No. 8 Fotu Auelua. Brumbies fullback Jesse Mogg, half-back Nic White, playmaker Christian Lealiifano and backrower Ben Mowen have also gained first-time inclusion after the Brumbies' early-season surge.
The Brumbies impressed in Dunedin (video available only in Australia)%]
"It's a tough job and [selection] can be a bit of lottery at times when there's not a lot between the players," Holmes said. "But there's a long time to go before the Tests are played so I remain hopeful."
Queensland enter Saturday night's clash in red-hot form after producing their best performance of the season to upset the defending champions, the Chiefs, 31-23 in Hamilton. But there's little time to savour it, with the Reds keen to avenge their first-round 24-6 loss to the Brumbies. "I assume it's going to be even tougher than the Chiefs game," Holmes said.
With the winners to take top spot in the Australian conference, Brumbies skipper Mowen rated the match "hugely important" and a strong gauge of title credentials. "For us, there's no bigger challenge at the moment than going up to Queensland to play a very in-form Reds side," he said.
The Reds should be bolstered by the return of winger Digby Ioane from a knee injury, crating a selection dilemma after Rod Davies' two-try return against the Chiefs.
The Reds produced their best performance of the season against the Chiefs (video available only in Australia)