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British and Irish Lions vs Queensland Reds (Saturday – 16h30 – Suncorp Stadium Brisbane)
The British and Irish Lions coach, Warren Gatland, called for tougher challenges after his side crushed the Western Force earlier this week and his dream may just come true ,or could that become a nightmare? The Queensland Reds are lying in wait in Brisbane and they have named nine capped Wallabies in a strong starting line-up for their tour match against the British and Irish Lions on Saturday.
Sam Warburton will make his British and Irish Lions début against the Reds on Saturday, after he missed the tourists’ convincing wins over the Barbarians in Hong Kong and Western Force in Perth, due to a knee injury. He is fit and will start as open-side flanker for the toughest test of the tour so far.
Welsh prop, Gethin Jenkins, returns to the team after missing the first two matches due to a calf problem. His return is a welcome boost to Gatland, who may well lose Cian Healy to injury, a ban, or both. Healy was cited for biting in Wednesday’s match against the Force.
The Reds will try to repeat their performance in the 2011 Super Rugby tournament when they walked away with the title for the Southern Hemisphere’s best provincial side and, although Sans Seven Wallabies, will field a side with a total of 87 test caps in their attempt to derail the Lions’ tour.
Former test prop Ewen McKenzie and Reds coach, has put out the best side available to him and promised the tourists something a little bit different with flyhalf Cooper playing an integral role. “You are not going to beat them playing an orthodox game,” McKenzie told reporters. “And someone like Quade, you can’t get a better player to do that.”
McKenzie has already announced that this is his last season with the Reds, and this will be the ideal chance of beating the Lions and thus add impetus to his claim in succeeding Robbie Deans as Wallabie’s coach at the end of the year.
For Quade Cooper this is his last chance to prove to he should be part of Deans’ three-test series squad against the Lions.
The absence of the seven Wallabies, in particular scrumhalf Will Genia, makes an upset highly unlikely but the Reds will certainly give it a good go in front of a sell-out crowd on Saturday.
“We’ve got the venue. We’ve got a full house so we have the circumstances we like and we’ve got a quality opposition in front of us, and we play our best rugby against the best teams, so all the ingredients are there for us to play well”
“Playing against The British and Irish Lions is a once in a career type opportunity, so to be running out in front of a sold-out Suncorp Stadium crowd on Saturday night will be an experience these 23 players will never forget,” Red’s coaching director Ewen McKenzie said.