When is a strength not a strength? How does one become a weakness? In the preparation for rugby games, the answer to those questions is an essential part of the plan.
Brumbies coach Stephen Larkham says he doesn’t want to engage in a “war of words” with the Queensland Reds after an inflammatory comment of his was dug up and used as a fuse.
Serial verbal sparring partners Jake White and Ewen McKenzie might have moved on from the two rival Super Rugby clubs but the mind games and broadsides appear fiercer than ever ahead of Saturday night’s clash.
Larkham declared the Reds were not “up to the standard of Super Rugby” following their 47-3 demolition of a hapless Queensland four weeks ago in Canberra – an accusation his counterpart Richard Graham labelled “ridiculous”.
Reds backrower Jake Schatz on Wednesday then chimed in by saying his side would be using Larkham’s comments as motivation ahead of the Suncorp Stadium grudge derby.
Larkham has previously said he was taken out of context and meant to say Queensland’s performance level was not up to their usual high standards.
When pressed further on Thursday he said the comment, which he believes was dug up by journalists and not the Reds camp itself, would not be featuring at the forefront of his upcoming opponents’ minds.
“I’m sure internally they’ve got a good focus on the game – they’re not worried about external comments,” Larkham said.
“We’re not trying to get into any war of words with coaches or players or anything like that.
“We’re very focused on trying to take our game to the next level, which is, I’m sure, also their focus.”
The Reds will be missing James O’Connor for the clash, but Larkham is still expecting the Queenslanders to put on a much better performance – despite their lacklustre loss to the Waratahs on Saturday.
“I wouldn’t say they’ve gotten worse since round one. They’ve certainly improved,” he said.
“There is plenty of comment on how poorly they played in that first round, but they’re certainly a very dangerous side if they can get it together.”
Brumbies (15-1): Robbie Coleman, Henry Speight, Tevita Kuridrani, Christian Lealiifano, Joe Tomane, Matt Toomua, Nic White, Ita Vaea, Jarrad Butler, Scott Fardy, Sam Carter, Rory Arnold, Ben Alexander, Stephen Moore (c), Scott Sio. Reserves: Josh Mann-Rea, Ruan Smith, JP Smith, Jordan Smiler, Blake Enever, Michael Dowsett, Lausii Taliauli, James Dargaville.
Queensland: Ben Tapuai, Chris Kuridrani, Chris Feauai-Sautia, Anthony Fainga’a, Campbell Magnay, Nick Frisby, Will Genia, Jake Schatz, Liam Gill, Adam Thomson, James Horwill, Marco Kotze, Sam Talakai, Saia Fainga’a, James Slipper (capt). Res: James Hanson, Ben Daley, Sef Faagase, Dave McDuling, Curtis Browning, Scott Gale, Sam Johnson, Tom Banks.