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Four into 10 won't go: Kiss working hard to solve flyhalf puzzle

19th December, 2023
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19th December, 2023
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Les Kiss wants his team to be clinical and courageous and, with that in mind, is tossing up his options at No.10 for the Queensland Reds.

The new coach has at least four capable five-eighths in his Super Rugby Pacific squad.

Australia veteran James O’Connor is 33 and recovering from a knee injury suffered while playing for the Barbarians in Europe during September’s World Cup.

O’Connor has worked closely with the maturing Tom Lynagh and Lawson Creighton, who have jostled for time in the jersey for the last two years. 

Then there’s Junior Wallabies talent Harry McLaughlin-Phillips, who donned the No.10 as a 19-year-old in the Reds’ only game under Kiss – a pre-season clash with Japan’s Panasonic Wild Knights.

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“It’s a good question,” Kiss said when asked who would suit up at five-eighth next year.

“We’ve got options, and speaking to all of them they’ve got a particular strength that can come to the fore.

“The style of game, where they have the courage and confidence to back the pictures they see and play footy, will be part of that deal.

Tom Lynagh. (Photo by Albert Perez/Getty Images)

“I’m confident I can lean on the experience of a James right down to the youth of a Harry.

“In between you’ve got Tom Lynagh and Lawson. 

“It’s a really good situation to be in. So, who starts? We’ll find out.”

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Kiss has replaced Brad Thorn at Ballymore, both men able to boast of State of Origin experience for Queensland’s rugby league team.

Thorn went straight into the Reds job after an unrivalled dual-code career, while former winger Kiss’s first rugby appointment came as an assistant coach with the Springboks in 2001.

“We’re slowly and surely getting to know each other,” Kiss said.

“I see young men who are really hungry to find out how good they can be.

“I want to make sure they’re as well armed as possible to go out there and have the courage to back themselves.”

James O'Connor of the Reds is tackled by Nic White

James O’Connor. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

The Reds won Super Rugby AU in 2021 and broke a 10-year drought in New Zealand by beating the Chiefs last season, before losing 29-20 to the ladder-leaders in the quarter-finals.

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“The foundation Brad and the boys put in place is there … the will to win, drive hard and empty the tank,” Kiss said.

He has recruited in the front row to bolster a squad heavy with back-row and backline talent.

“I’d just like them to pull the trigger, have the confidence to play and knock off their opportunities better and game management overall,” he said.

“You’ve got to be able to skin the cat in many different ways … and still stay true to what we want to do.”

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