Reds ‘desperate’ to end losing streak

Super Rugby Pacific Rd 2 - Hurricanes v Queensland Reds
Reds co-captain Liam Wright leaps high in a lineout earlier this season against the Hurricanes. Picture: Kelly Defina/Getty Images

Reds co-captain Liam Wright admits Queensland is “desperate” to beat the Highlanders on Friday night but rejects suggestions that it’s a must-win affair for his out-of-form team.

After an encouraging start to the Super Rugby Pacific season, the Reds’ campaign is in danger of permanent derailment after three successive defeats.

However, Wright was confident the Queenslanders – who made six changes to the team that started in their shock 17-14 last-start loss to Moana Pasifika – still had time to recover.

“We are desperate to get a win but I don’t think it’s desperation stations,” the experienced flanker said ahead of the Suncorp Stadium battle.

“We just want to put our best foot forward. We want to go back to the fundamentals which give us a good game plan.

“We’re still trying to find what exactly works for us, and (Friday) is a good test for us to go back to what worked for us earlier in the season.”

Super Rugby Pacific Rd 4 - Melbourne Rebels v Queensland Reds
Liam Wright is hoping the Reds can end their run of losses. Picture: Robert Cianflone/Getty Images

Wright will lead the Reds on his own against the Highlanders, with halfback and fellow skipper Tate McDermott serving the first match of a three-game ban after being sent off for a swinging arm to the head of Moana Pasifika’s Irie Papuni last week.

“I’ll miss Tate’s guidance and decision-making around the field,” Wright admitted.

“We’ve been working well together and coming up with the right calls, but it’s just an opportunity for other guys to step up.

“I’ll consult with other leaders in the team. There are plenty of them going around, so I don’t think it’ll be changing too much, it’ll just be utilising the other guys’ skill sets.”

The Highlanders, who have won just two of their seven matches, have made 10 changes to the team that started last Saturday’s 47-31 loss to the Melbourne Rebels at AAMI Park.

Highlanders coach Clarke Dermody, whose team has been in camp on the Gold Coast, said the shake-up was not only based on performances in the defeat.

“(It’s) also, I guess, an indication of how we want to play the game against the Reds,” Dermody told the Otago Daily Times.

“The Reds kick a lot and they’re patient in their kicking game.”

Reds: Alex Hodgman, Matt Faessler, Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, Cormac Daly, Ryan Smith, Liam Wright, John Bryant, Harry Wilson, Kalani Thomas, Tom Lynagh, Mac Grealy, Hunter Paisami, Jordan Petaia, Suliasi Vunivalu, Jock Campbell. Bench: Josh Nasser, Peni Ravai, Sef Fa’agase, Angus Blyth, Joe Brial, Louis Werchon, Lawson Creighton, Tim Ryan.

Highlanders: Ethan de Groot, Ricky Jackson, Saula Ma’u, Hugo Plummer, Pari Pari Parkinson, Oliver Haig, Sean Withy, Billy Harmon, James Arscott, Cameron Millar, Jona Nareki, Sam Gilbert, Tanielu Tele’a, Timoci Tavatavanawai, Connor Garden-Bachop. Bench: Henry Bell, Daniel Lienert-Brown, Rohan Wingham. Will Stodart. Nikora Broughton, Folau Fakatava, Ajay Faleafaga, Jacob Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens.