SUPER RUGBY REDS CRUSADERS
Liam Wright will begin his Queensland Reds Super Rugby captaincy sporting 17 stitches and a black eye thanks to two pre-season knees to the face.
But he won't be shying away from the action in the season opener in Canberra on Friday, vowing to keep putting his head "in some ugly places" against the Brumbies.
The hosts will start as warm favourites, something Wright says is fair given they were the only Australian outfit to make last season's quarter-finals.
But two impressive trial wins have filled coach Brad Thorn's squad with confidence, despite the off-season departure of skipper Samu Kerevi to Japanese rugby.
"They're definitely the benchmark," Wright said of the Brumbies.
"But we're not pitting ourselves against them; we're pitting ourselves against ourselves.
"We got lots of good go-forward last year but we're trying to play a more expansive game without him (Kerevi)."
Isaac Lucas will wear the No.10 in a new-look backline that also features the creativity of James O'Connor and Jordan Petaia in the centres.
But Wright thinks the key on Friday will be their bigger men.
The Reds, who last played Super Rugby finals in 2013, held firm in that department against the Waratahs in Dalby last Friday.
Backrower Wright did his bit with a try despite two separate, heavy knocks leaving him bloodied and bruised.
He doesn't expect any sympathy from a Brumbies outfit that prides itself on its scrum and rolling maul.
"We want to combat that and go at them with our own," he said.
"At the end of the day at No.7 you put your head in some ugly places, so we'll see how it holds up."
The Reds will head straight to South Africa and then Argentina after their Canberra opener on an arduous round-the-world tour to begin their season.
"It's good for a young team, there's a lot of enthusiasm around it because a lot of the guys haven't been on a trip like this before," the 22-year-old captain said.
"It's going to be a lot of fun, but we're going there to win Super Rugby matches and we know if we can get two or three good wins here that's going to set up our season."