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The Reds hosts the Waratahs tonight at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane. Join The Roar for live scores and a blog of the match starting from 7:05pm (AEST).
This is the best opportunity for the Reds to finally win a match against their oldest rival, the Waratahs. They have not beaten the New South Welshmen for seven years, the closest match being a three-point loss in April 2017.
Preceded by the departure of their CEO to suddently join the rampaging Blues in Auckland, the Waratahs are having one of their worst years for a good part of a decade. They suffered large losses in all but one of their shuttered Super Rugby campaign.
They have lost a few players, including Waratahs poster boy Kurtley Beale, who has gone overseas. They are literally hamstrung by hamstring injuries to Jake Gordon, Lalakai Foketi and Karmichael Hunt.
This is the first match with new trial laws and interpretations, some of which mirror the New Zealand adjustments. As highlighted by Rugby Australia, teams are able to replace red-carded players after 20 minutes. The five-metre defensive scrum will be replaced by a league-style goal-line drop out. If a player kicks the ball into touch on the bounce from inside their own half to opposition 22, the kicking team gets the lineout. This kicking advantage should open up the field for attacks as players are expected drop back to defend against it.
The most important are the changes in breakdown adjudication by the referee. Today’s man in the middle is Nic Berry, who I believe has been practicing officiating of these breakdowns with the Australian team during their training sessions.
This is where the Reds will be licking their lips, in particular skipper Liam Wright, Harry Wilson and fellow rookie Frazer McReight, who will plan to use their size and stamina to rule the breakdown. The Waratahs pilferers are not slackers either, with Michael Hooper, powerman Lachland Swinton and huge hooker Robbie Abel. The 107-kilogram debutant Will Harris is an unknown factor. He will be judged today.
Due to the breakdown interpretation changes I expect turnovers and penalties to litter this game. I predict this to be a classic winner-takes-all, run-like-hell, helter-skelter game with plenty of counterattacks, especially from the Queenslanders.
The return of the great Jim McKay this year has created fantastic attacking results for the Reds. There may be many Reds set piece breaks and point scoring, especially of their own lineouts. Today three out of the four locks on both sides are Queenslanders, the exception being Ned Hanigan, the lightest of the lot.
Many are predicting a drought-breaking win for the Queenslanders, which is hard to argue against. The ones who could spoil this are the young players from New South Wales. I expect their flyhalf, Will Harrison, to outwit James O’Conner if his pack helps him create opportunities.
Unfortunately Rob Penney has not yet worked out his winning combination. He also has too many rookies playing today, some even more inexperienced the Reds.
While the Waratahs will bring on significant enthusiasm, the Reds should win easily. But this is the first match, so who really knows?
Kick-off: 7:05pm (AEST)
Venue: Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
TV: Fox Sports
Live stream: Kayo Sports
Referee: Nic Berry
15 Bryce Hegarty, 14 Jock Campbell, 13 Hunter Paisami, 12 Hamish Stewart, 11 Filipo Daugunu, 10 James O’Connor, 9 Tate McDermott, 8 Harry Wilson, 7 Fraser McReight, 6 Liam Wright (c), 5 Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, 4 Angus Blyth, 3 Taniela Tupou, 2 Brandon Paenga-Amosa, 1 Harry Hoopert
Bench: 16 Alex Mafi, 17 JP Smith, 18 Josh Nasser, 19 Tuaina Taii Tualima, 20 Angus Scott Young, 21 Scott Malolua, 22 Chris Feauai-Sautia, 23 Josh Flook
15 Jack Maddocks, 14 James Ramm, 13 Alex Newsome, 12 Joey Walton, 11 Mark Nawaqanitawase, 10 Will Harrison, 9 Mitch Short, 8 Will Harris, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Lachlan Swinton, 5 Rob Simmons (c), 4 Ned Hanigan, 3 Harry Johnson-Holmes, 2 Robbie Abel, 1 Angus Bell
Bench: 16 Tom Horton, 17 Tetera Faulkner, 18 Tiaan Tauakipulu, 19 Tom Staniforth, 20 Jack Dempsey, 21 Michael McDonald, 22 Ben Donaldson, 23 Tepai Moeroa