Ewen McKenzie has stressed the Queensland Reds are “not even close” to their best despite three straight wins and has demanded better finishing to be leading Super Rugby contenders.
The Reds might have beaten NSW, the Hurricanes and Melbourne Rebels on the trot but have consistently missed or messed up try-scoring chances which have denied them bonus points.
Coaching boss McKenzie on Thursday made three expected changes to his backline for Saturday night’s home clash with the Western Force, and their attack will be bolstered by the return of halfback general Will Genia from a knee reconstruction.
But Queensland will be without in-form strike weapon Digby Ioane (stood down) and fellow Wallabies winger Dom Shipperley (back) at Suncorp Stadium.
The dual blow has opened the door for Chris Feauai-Sautia and one-Test flyer Luke Morahan, who will make his first start of the year after being dumped from the 22 for the 23-13 win over the Rebels.
Although Ioane will be sorely missed, Morahan’s return could be good timing for a player rated highly by Wallabies coach Robbie Deans.
The 22-year-old’s speed immediately makes Quade Cooper’s wide passing game more dangerous.
“Luke is one of the best in sniffing out tries,” McKenzie said. “He’s always there getting the last pass and is good at reading those opportunities.”
While their defence has earned rave reviews, Queensland have shot themselves in the foot with poor finishing – highlighted by Jono Lance and Saia Faingaa botching tries against the Rebels.
“We’re always chasing our best and we’re not even close at the moment,” McKenzie said.
“There was an easy two tries we didn’t take against the Rebels and, with a bit more vision, we could have got another two.
“That will come with some cohesion. I always say you build your attack and we’re still building that.”
Morahan believes Genia’s return, limited to the first 40 minutes, will automatically lift the Reds’ attack.
“It gives us a lot of confidence,” he said. “He’s a world-class player and he runs our attack really well so him coming in will do wonders for us.”
Young halfback Nick Frisby has beaten Ben Lucas to a spot on the bench and will play the second half following a timely career-best match against the Rebels.
Queensland suffered a late blow when reserve forward Radike Samo injured his knee at training, forcing a recall for veteran lock Adam Wallace-Harrison who had initially been dropped from the bench in anticipation of a fierce breakdown contest.