Friday, May 04, 2012

Injury-hit Reds focus on the Crusaders backs BARCLAY 04/05/2012

With the angst surrounding Will Genia's future eradicated by an abrupt about turn, the Queensland Reds promptly switched focus to new threats to their backline stability – a Crusaders midfield featuring a long-term nemesis and the man of the moment. Queensland Reds: Luke Morahan, Dom Shipperley, Anthony Faingaa, Mike Harris, Digby Ioane, Ben Lucas, Will Genia; Scott Higginbotham, Liam Gill, Jake Schatz, James Horwill (capt), Rob Simmons, James Slipper, James Hanson, Greg Holmes. Reserves: Saia Faingaa, Albert Anae, Adam Wallace-Harrison, Radike Samo, Eddie Quirk, Nick Frisby, Rod Davies

Genia's fleeting association with the Western Force last weekend reduced teammate Digby Ioane to tears before the Wallabies halfback recommitted to the Super 15 champions, and now the Crusaders are planning to inflict their own brand of hurt at AMI Stadium in Christchurch on Sunday.

An All Black-studded back division, complete with Dan Carter playing out of his preferred position at second five-eighth, have produced eight of the Crusaders last nine tries – a product of Carter's organisation skills, Robbie Fruean's power, Zac Guildford's support play and Israel Dagg's gradual return to form.

Rookie pivot Tom Taylor is also slotting the goals and mastering the restarts while Andy Ellis is another valuable kicking option to pressurise the opposing back three.

In contrast to the Crusaders' settled backline unit – an injured Sean Maitland prevented Todd Blackadder fielding his optimum combination against the Hurricanes and Waratahs – the Reds have been plagued by injuries since round one in Sydney.

Quade Cooper has so far been confined to commentary duties on game day at Suncorp Stadium; one of his understudies Sam Lane suffered a season-ending knee injury against the Stormers – the same game where midfielder Ben Tapuai broke a collarbone.

Ben Lucas and New Zealand's Mike Harris needed time off after straining hamstrings in South Africa while Ioane served a five-week suspension for a dangerous tackle before making his comeback against the Blues at Eden Park last weekend.

Now it is the turn of Anthony Faingaa to return to the starting lineup for the first time since his hamstring injury against the Waratahs in February was compounded by a bruised heel.

The defensively minded midfielder played 28 minutes off the bench in Auckland, enough to convince head coach Ewen McKenzie to name the 14-test Wallaby at centre .

In other changes to the side that beat the Blues 23-11, Jake Schatz replaces the injured Beau Robinson on the blindside flank and Ioane moves to the wing for Faingaa, relegating Rod Davies to the reserves. Greg Holmes takes over at loosehead prop from Ben Daley (hamstring) and Faingaa's twin Saia returns from an ankle injury to sit on the bench as reserve hooker while No8 Radike Samo is also recalled.

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