Preview: Reds v Chiefs

Date published: June 5 2015

It will be a fond goodbye and adieu to two, possibly three, Reds legends when they take on the Chiefs in Brisbane.

The class of 2011 are beginning to go their separate ways as James Horwill and Will Genia play their final games at Suncorp for the Reds.

Both were individually outstanding when the Reds clinched their only Super Rugby title four years ago against the Crusaders and they will leave with their fans' blessing.

Genia may well be joined in France by Quade Cooper, whose future remains unclear despite appearing in a Toulon shirt shaking the hand of Mourad Boudjellal earlier this year.

All three have written their names into Reds folklore but while Saturday's fixture will have a sentimental edge, all three will be hungry to produce an outstanding performance to bow out on.

Since the arrival of John Connolly to the coaching staff the Reds appear to have turned a corner, producing their best game last week with a 32-10 thrashing of the Force away from home.

That coincided with Cooper's return from a shoulder injury and now that he and Genia are starting to click with an exciting backline featuring Samu Kerevi, Karmichael Hunt, Lachie Turner and James O'Connor, the Reds have the ability to attack from anywhere.

To do so however they will have to win the battle at the breakdown and set-piece, which is no easy task against the Chiefs.

Dave Rennie's side still have major play-off ambitions but their defeat away to the Highlanders last weekend was a setback, with far too many basic errors with their handling and defence.

It would be wrong to ignore the effect of losing so many top players to injury has had on their squad throughout the year and the cavalry returns in a way this weekend, with Brodie Retallick and Liam Messam adding leadership and real class to the pack.

No side has been better at fracturing defences than the Chiefs, who lead the tournament in clean breaks and offloads, which will really test a Reds defence that hasn't always been solid in 2015.

With the Brumbies and Lions hot on their heels in the race for the top six, the Chiefs simply have to win.

The last time these teams met: Back in 2013 Cooper was on fire for the Reds as he scored a try and finished with 16 points in a 31-23 victory in Hamilton. 'Rocket' Rod Davies scored two tries for the Reds as they won on the road and picked up a bonus point.

Players to watch: He might be heading to Stade Français but Will Genia is still battling it out to be the Wallabies starting number nine for the World Cup in September. Australia are blessed with options at scrum-half including Nic White and Nick Phipps, making every game from now in an audition and a chance to impress Michael Cheika. A brilliant game-manager, Genia's sharp running around the fringes can't be underestimated. Look out for another Wallaby contender in Samu Kerevi.

For the Chiefs the unsung hero of their season in many ways has been the Japan international Michael Leitch. A hard-working number eight who has shown a real nose for the try line, Leitch's best work comes through his athletic carrying of the ball and the shift he puts in at the lineout. The Chiefs need quick ball in Brisbane and he can make that happen at the breakdown and set-piece. Elsewhere, Tim Nanai-Williams always brings some magic to a backline.

Team news: Reds head coach Richard Graham has named an unchanged starting team, while the reserves bench features the return of Saia Fainga’a from a rib injury and the potential debut of New Zealand-born Japanese Test player Hendrik Tui, who has recovered from a broken leg suffered while playing in Japan. 

For the Chiefs, Retallick and Messam both return from injury and join some new personnel in the pack as Mitchell Graham and Siate Tokolahi start in the front row. Tim Nanai-Williams starts on the left wing with Andrew Horrell joining Charlie Ngatai in the midfield. Bryce Heem moves to the right wing and Tom Marshall returns at full-back.

Form: After a dire six-game losing streak the Reds have now won three of their last six matches to move them away from the bottom of the table. Four victories from 14 games however is a poor return overall, although their form in recent matches has improved and they remarkably have won their last four games against the Chiefs.

Meanwhile the Chiefs are in their worst run of form having lost three of their last four games, despite occupying one of the wildcard spots. All three of those defeats have come away from home. Impressively only the Brumbies have conceded fewer tries this season than the Chiefs' 27.

Predictions: A tough one to call with the Reds running high on adrenaline but the Chiefs welcoming back some key players. If their pack can get on top then they should sneak home. Chiefs by 4!

Previous results: 
2013: Reds won 31-23 in Hamilton
2012: Reds won 42-27 in Brisbane
2011: Reds won 19-11 in Hamilton
2010: Reds won 23-18 in Hamilton

The teams:

Reds: 15 James O’Connor, 14 Chris Feauai-Sautia, 13 Karmichael Hunt, 12 Samu Kerevi, 11 Lachie Turner, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia, 8  Jake Schatz, 7 Liam Gill, 6 Adam Thomson, 5 James Horwill, 4 Rob Simmons, 3 Greg Holmes, 2 James Hanson, 1 James Slipper (c)
Replacements (one to be omitted): 16 Saia Fainga’a, 17 Pettowa Paraka, 18 Sam Talakai, 19 Ed O’Donoghue, 20 Beau Robinson, 21 Hendrik Tui, 22 Nick Frisby, 23 Ben Tapuai, 24 Jake McIntyre

Chiefs: 15 Tom Marshall, 14 Bryce Heem, 13 Charlie Ngatai 12 Andrew Horrell, 11 Tim Nanai-Williams, 10 Marty McKenzie, 9 Augustine Pulu, 8 Michael Leitch, 7 Sam Cane, 6 Liam Messam (c), 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Michael Fitzgerald, 3 Siate Tokolahi, 2 Hika Elliot, 1 Mitchell Graham. 
Replacements: 16 Quentin MacDonald 17 Pauliasi Manu 18 Jarrod Firth 19 Matt Symons 20 Maama Vaipulu 21 Brad Weber 22 Damian McKenzie 23 Anton Lienert-Brown

Date: Saturday, June 6
Venue: Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
Kick-off: 19:40 local (09:40 GMT, 21:40 NZST, 11:40 SAST)
Referee: Mike Fraser
Assistant Referees: Rohan Hoffman, Andrew Lees
TMO: George Ayoub