With Queensland Reds head coach Ewen McKenzie looking to shake things up in 2010, competition for places has heated up as the Reds prepare for their first trial game, against New South Wales in Lismore on January 23.
McKenzie is keeping an open mind on the make-up of that team and those that will follow in trials against the Crusaders (Ballymore, Jan 29) and Western Force (Perth, Feb 5) and in their opening Investec Bank Super 14 match against the Waratahs at Suncorp Stadium on February 13.
“People like to do the mathematics of it all, work it out based on what has happened in the past, but what has happened in the past hasn’t been good enough. We can’t just roll out the same team and expect to be massively different,” McKenzie said.
“I’m open-minded, but I don’t expect we’ll necessarily run the same people out there just because they did it last year and the year before that.
“Sometimes it’s about shaking it up a bit and doing things differently, not just about being orthodox and logical. We’ve got to try to make sure we’ve got the right mix.”
Since training commenced in October, McKenzie has been most impressed with his players’ enthusiasm and their attitude towards improvement.
“They are very keen to be better. That doesn’t mean it will happen tomorrow or next week, but they are keen to be better, and they’re practising habits that will hopefully make them better,” he said.
Despite the Reds being a relatively young group, experience levels are building, with the 30-man squad having a collective tally of 803 Super Rugby caps and nine players with Test experience – James Horwill, Peter Hynes, Digby Ioane, Will Genia, Quade Cooper, Morgan Turinui, Greg Holmes, Sean Hardman and Daniel Braid.
Meanwhile, the HSBC Waratahs returned to training for 2010 this week, with a number of the Wallaby Spring Tourists joining the squad for the first time this season.
Luke Burgess, Dean Mumm, Sekope Kepu and Dave Dennis hit the paddock, with the remainder of the national squad members due to come back into the program over the coming weeks.
HSBC Waratahs head coach Chris Hickey said the reintroduction of more senior players will give the entire squad another lift as the calendar rapidly approaches the Super 14.
“It’s less than three weeks now until we play our first trial in Lismore, and less than six weeks until our first game of the season, so it’s exciting for everyone to see things taking shape,” Hickey said.
The HSBC Waratahs play three trial matches in the space of 13 days, starting on Saturday 23 January against the Queensland Reds at Oakes Oval, Lismore. They then travel to Orange to play the Fiji Warriors at Wade Park on Saturday 30 January, before their final trial against the Brumbies at Viking Park, Tuggeranong on Thursday 4 February.
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