The inclusion of 2009 rugby convert Mark McLinden at fullback is one of three changes made by QR Reds selectors to the team to play the Stormers in Cape Town in round two of the Investec Super 14 tournament.
The official Queensland Reds website reports that McLinden’s selection after impressing in his 20 minutes off the bench last weekend against the Bulls will allow Wallaby winger Peter Hynes to return to his preferred position at the expense of Brando Va’aulu.
Another strong performer off the bench, scrumhalf Will Genia, gets his opportunity to wear the number 9 jersey after swapping places with Ben Lucas.
A third impressive bench player last week, tighthead prop Laurie Weeks, also wins a starting opportunity and his second cap against the Stormers on Friday (3am Saturday morning Queensland time) at the expense of Dayna Edwards.
McLinden joined the Reds during the off-season after a decorated career at fullback in rugby league and has been undergoing a crash course in positional play in the 15-man code, with three trial matches and his first capped appearance off the bench against the Bulls.
Head Coach Phil Mooney said McLinden impressed with his performance, which included a darting run at his first touch of the ball and his confidence under pressure in cleaning up a deep kick from the Bulls.
“Mark certainly showed his skill when he came on (against the Bulls) and we believe he’s earned the right to play fullback this week,” Mooney said.
“We believe we’ll get more out of playing Peter Hynes on the wing as well, so it’s a combination of those two elements.”
Mooney said form was also the primary factor in selecting Genia ahead of Lucas at the scrumbase and Weeks at prop.
“Will is probably the player in form and he’s certainly been a catalyst for our attack when he’s been on the field,” said Mooney of the PNG-born scrumhalf, who released powerful wing Digby Ioane with a neat reverse pass off a second half scrum.
“Laurie (Weeks) in his time on the field has been impressive: he’s a good ball carrier and gives you something in defence as well. He’s the form player in that position and warrants selection.”
The team is:
1 Greg Holmes, 2 Sean Hardman, 3 Laurie Weeks, 4 Van Humphries, 5 Adam Byrnes, 6 Scott Higginbotham, 7 Daniel Braid, 8 Leroy Houston, 9 Will Genia, 10 Quade Cooper, 11 Peter Hynes, 12 Berrick Barnes (Capt), 13 Charlie Fetoai, 14 Digby Ioane, 15 Mark McLinden.
Replacements: 16 Saia Faingaa, 17 Dayna Edwards, 18 Robert Simmons, 19 Poutasi Luafutu, 20 Ben Lucas, 21 Anthony Faingaa, 22 Brando Va’aulu.
Mooney said the Reds will need to cut down the silly errors and play smarter rugby if they want to succeed in this year’s tournament.
Three key errors – one bad scrum on the stroke of halftime and a missed tackle minutes into the second period, along with a critical turnover with one-minute remaining for Adam Byrnes in the sinbin – changed the momentum, and the scoreline of the match, leading to three of the Bulls’ four tries.
“We’ve just got to be a bit more rugby smart,” Mooney said.
While the 33-20 scoreline wasn’t the result Mooney was after, the Reds showed enough promise, particularly in defence, to highlight the improvement the squad has made during the off-season.
“It was a game I think we were in a position to win and we were starting to gain a bit of momentum when we had Adam Byrnes sin-binned and then after that we were always playing catch-up, but there were certainly good elements to our performance,” Mooney said.
“(The Bulls) had a lot of ball in the first 20 minutes and our defence and discipline was very good. Really they scored the try on halftime where they didn’t have to do a lot of work. It wasn’t a reflection on poor defence.”
Winger Digby Ioane was outstanding, highlighted by his 45m dash for the Reds’ first try, with Mooney insisting his star winger’s performance was a product of hard work at training.
“He works extremely hard on his game and he’s a far more polished player now than he was 12 months ago and I think that performance was just a reflection of the work he has done off the field.”
After being bombarded with the prototypical aerial kicking attack of the Bulls, Mooney says his side must now adjust to the expansive style of the Stormers in Cape Town on February 20.
“They’re very aggressive at the breakdown and they like to play a ball in hand type game as opposed to the Bulls’ kicking game, so I think in terms of our defence I think we are going to have to be pretty good.
“They’re one of the championship contenders and Newlands is a great stadium, so we look forward to playing them there.”Tweet