White welcomes Reds’ rugby battle tactics
Queensland’s cagey delay in naming their team for Saturday’s pivotal Super Rugby clash might form part of their battle tactics, but to Brumbies’ coach Jake White, it suggests they’re on their way to losing the war.
White on Thursday was buoyed by news that Reds’ counterpart Ewen McKenzie opted to name a 23-man squad and hold off on revealing his starting team until Friday afternoon.
With an injury cloud hovering over utility back Ben Lucas, who is still struggling with a groin problem, and much intrigue over the Reds’ back-row composition, McKenzie won’t unveil his 22 until the Reds train in Canberra.
The cloak-and-dagger routine also included a closed-house Thursday morning training session, but it all brought a smile to White’s face.
“It’s a massive compliment,” White said in Canberra.
“There’s an Art of War book by Sun Tzu that says if your enemy reacts to you, then you’re in a position of strength.
“So it’s wonderful that people are delaying things and taking their time to work things out according to our strengths.
“I don’t know about whether it’s got them on the back foot, but it is an indication that things have turned.
“The Brumbies are seen as different from what they were in the beginning of the season.”
White believes the clash will be an all-or-nothing encounter for both sides with the Brumbies aiming to cement their spot on top of the Australian conference, while the defending champions can close the eight-point gap and continue their late-season momentum.
It’s no huge surprise McKenzie is keeping his cards close to his chest after successfully adopting the same ploy before the Reds’ 20-13 Good Friday victory at Suncorp Stadium.
Then, he picked a dynamic loose-forward combination with both ball scavengers Liam Gill and Beau Robinson starting and running amok after Michael Hooper was left on the bench.
McKenzie is spoilt for choice again with Robinson (ankle), rested for the Reds’ victory over the Lions to ensure he’s 100 per cent fit, in the frame to start at No.6 ahead of an in-form Jake Schatz.
Either way, the Reds will have a more mobile back-row than the Brumbies who have tall-timber Peter Kimlin replacing Fotu Auelua to star beside skipper Ben Mowen and Hooper.
“We’ve got some good competition going on there … Jake has had a very good season and he’s very much unsung,” McKenzie said.
Brumbies’ halfback Nic White has regained his No.9 jersey from Ian Prior, and will team with rookie playmaker Zack Holmes who enjoyed an impressive run-on debut against the Hurricanes.
While he faces another steep learning curve against Quade Cooper, who made a successful return from knee surgery against the Lions, Mowen was adamant the 21-year-old Holmes will be up for the challenge.
“He’ll take a lot of confidence out of how he played last week and that’s what you want,” Mowen said.
Lucas’ injury could mean a reshuffle for Queensland’s backline defence as likely fullback replacement Luke Morahan would defend on the wing rather than No.10 like Lucas.© AAP 2013
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