A hungry Queensland is ready to turn the tables and break their Super Rugby drought against bitter rivals NSW, with both sides throwing verbal barbs before tonight’s clash in Brisbane.
The inaugural Super Rugby AU competition will start with the code’s oldest domestic rivalry.
Yet one thing that won’t be dated is the two teams, with many of the most talented young players in the country set to showcase their skills at Suncorp Stadium.
NSW have dominated Super Rugby combat between the teams, winning the last 11 contests with Queensland last tasting victory in 2013.
Encouragingly for the Reds they did win a pre-season trial against the Waratahs in January and were placed above them when the full Super Rugby competition was suspended in March due to COVID-19.
They start favourites against NSW, who are fielding a squad where almost half the players are in their first season of senior rugby.
The Waratahs called in former NSW State of Origin League captain Paul Gallen for a pep talk while Reds’ five-eighth James O’Connor said his side didn’t need pumping up, or a reminder about their recent record against the traditional foe.
“There’s a lot of history, we know what’s gone on and I’ve been involved In some of those big losses and it does hurt,” O’Connor said.
“But I feel the tables have turned, we’ve got a great squad and we’ve put the work in.”
Queensland captain Liam Wright said his side were looking forward to “smashing” the New South Welshmen, though Waratahs vice-captain Alex Newsome disregarded the rhetoric from across the border.
“I reckon it’s a bit rich from a mob that drink mid-strength beer mate,” Newsome quipped.
The midfield back was also upbeat despite the Waratahs winning just one of six games in the original Super Rugby season under new coach Rob Penney.
“It’s probably the best preparation we’ve had for a game in recent memory, because we’ve been able to review the start of the year and make changes,” Newsome said.
The tournament opener features many individual match-ups including Wallabies’ utility back O’Connor and highly-rated Waratahs talent Will Harrison at five-eighth.
O’Connor insisted he felt more comfortable at five-eighth than he did when shifted there earlier in the season proper.
“There’s still lots of elements that I’m not world class at yet, but there are elements that I do make my own and I feel like I am helping unlock this team’s ability,” he said.
Meanwhile, numerous law modifications relating to kicking, scrums and the breakdown will be introduced in the tournament.
“The first game is going to set a benchmark and hopefully it will be a good spectacle for the fans,” Newsome said.