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Predictions: Lions in Brisbane

07th June 2013 16:03

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Queensland Reds Teamshot pre Lions 2013

First real test before the first Test: The Reds

It is that time of the week again when 'Orrible Punt sits in the Planet Rugby hot-seat to reveal his calls. Get ready for the Reds versus the 2013 Lions.

If you like to bet on rugby contact Russ with your comments and questions on Twitter - @rpetty80.

Queensland Reds vs British and Irish Lions

With a dangerous half-back pairing of Quade Cooper and Will Genia, it's tempting to think of the Reds as the great entertainers of Super Rugby. However they are ranked eighth for points scored (307 from 15 games) and tenth for tries with 30.

They've scored fewer than 20 points in 8/15 games and tries like that fantastic 'coast to coast' effort scored by Rod Davies against the Sharks have been rare highlights.

In Ewen McKenzie's first season at the Queensland side, the Reds averaged 28 points a game and scored 31 tries in their thirteen matches. The title-winning 2011 season saw them score an average of 27 points a match and 51 tries. That dropped to 22 points in 2012 and 40 tries, with a further reduction to 20 points a game this season.

The defence has been notable, only conceding an average of nineteen points a game this season - while the 21 tries allowed is second only to the miserly Stormers. Both Ed Quirk and Jake Schatz have impressed and along with the spiky Beau Robinson offer a serious challenge to the returning Sam Warburton.

The captain will play in a familiar back-row combination with Welsh colleagues but hasn't had the luxury of the two warm-up games. A dominant home record has been a constant for the Reds over the past four seasons, with six wins and a draw from seven games in 2013, at a rate of 22-17 this season and 27 wins from 34 matches overall by 26-18. However, bar an impressive first-half display against the Sharks, they have struggled before the break recently, being outscored in six of their last seven matches at half-time and four out of six home games.

All mentions of weakened teams, "disrespect" and humidity are thankfully over and the hosts have named their strongest side available. McKenzie has long been mentioned as a future Wallaby coach and if his team were to upset the Lions, then you can imagine that the 'Link' bandwagon would gather more momentum.

The Queenslanders will also want the kudos that comes from beating the Lions and will relish the chance to cause an upset. It looks likely that Cooper won't be featuring in the first Test but a stand-out performance would give Robbie Deans a headache, especially if Australia were to go 0-1 down in the series.

Named captain for this match, Cooper has carried for 692m this season, kicked 115 times for 3913m (third in competition), assisted five tries and seven line-breaks and is out on his own for offloads with 41.

He is also the worst offender for turnovers with 37. The Lions looked susceptible to quick taps against the Force and you would expect Cooper to prefer a high tempo game. He will clearly be targeted by the Lions' big carriers and it is this area that Deans has highlighted as needing improvement.

I made the decision to stick with the tactic of backing the Lions on the second-half handicap, which was available at -8 in this game. The price of the Reds to win at 10.0 does seem slightly too big but even allowing for the reshuffling due to the loosehead injury issues, the Lions bench looks very powerful.

The hosts concede approximately 40 percent of their tries against centres which means Manu Tuilagi anytime scorer at 2.75 (7.0 for a double with Paddy Power) or Jonathan Davies at 3.5 may interest.

If you think Cooper will steal the headlines, he is 6.5 to score.

Referee Jaco Peyper has shown six cards in eight Super Rugby games so far and the possibility of a Robinson and Owen Farrell 'disagreement' makes a sin-bin an appealing option.