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Kiss delivers bad news on JOC leaving three-way battle for key Reds role

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19th February, 2024
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New Queensland Reds coach Les Kiss is tossing up blooding a teenage debutant at No.10 for the Super Rugby Pacific opener as he grapples with the loss of an injured James O’Connor.

Kiss said veteran playmaker O’Connor, 33, would miss at least the first three rounds after a pre-season hamstring injury followed a knee complaint late last year. 

It reduces the contest to wear the Reds’ No.10 against the NSW Waratahs at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday to a three-horse race.

Junior Wallabies graduate Harry McLaughlin-Phillips (19), Tom Lynagh (20) and Lawson Creighton (25) are all in the mix, Kiss said.

“You don’t like to lose people like James, do you?” Kiss said on Monday.

“He was flying, going extremely well.

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“But I’ve said all along we’ve got four good options there and all the other options are playing well.”

Lynagh and Creighton shared the duties last year with O’Connor, who was eventually shifted to the No.12 and performed strongly.

James O'Connor of the Reds looks on during the round three Super Rugby Pacific match

 (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

“Harry, Tom, and Lawso, have a good disposition, don’t get flustered too easily and all play slightly different,” Kiss said of his options.

“Harry is robust at the line, a triple threat for sure … a lot to learn but nothing seems to faze him.

“I’d have no reservations at all if that was to be the case; the only way you get experience is to play and I like them to play as much as possible.”

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Lock Angus Blyth (back) is also in doubt while flanker Connor Anderson, prop Massimo De Lutiis and hooker Max Craig are also on the injured list.

A rugby league winger who played for Queensland before moving into coaching in rugby, Kiss said the state rivalry “went to the bone”.

“It’s bloody tough and it’s exciting, it’s rivalry at its best and is an occasion I live for,” he said.

“I know what they’re (Waratahs) are capable of and what it means to them, so we won’t take them for granted.”

© AAP

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