Preview: Reds v Force

Date published: March 4 2016

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Australia's two strugglers do battle on Saturday in Brisbane when the Reds host the Force at Suncorp Stadium.

Round 1 went sadly as expected for both of these sides with opening defeats, the Reds losing by 20 points to the Waratahs and the Force being edged out by the Rebels.

Jono Lance's debut was a bright spot though for the Force given he finished with all of their 19 points in Perth, suggesting that the former Red could offer a long-term solution at fly-half even with the signing of former Springbok number ten Peter Grant.

Lance's kicking accuracy will be required again. The Force were one of only three teams (Stormers and Bulls) to be faultless with the boot in the opening round as they slotted all five of their place kicks in the match (one conversion, four penalties).

Lance is in fact one of three former Reds who line up for Saturday's game against their old side, along with Luke Morahan and Ben Tapuai, who started in the Reds' Super Rugby final win over the Crusaders in 2011.

Since then it's been a steady decline for the Reds and we witnessed the impact of losing all those senior players like Will Genia, James Horwill and Quade Cooper through the lack of composure the Reds showed with their indiscipline in the first half against the Waratahs, combined with a lack of direction in attack.

Pinning all of that on 21-year-old Jake McIntyre would be harsh given the fly-half scored his side's only try and how he grew into the contest, but the Reds have a long way to go with young heads in key positions.

That said the Reds were victorious in both matches between these teams in the 2015 season, though they failed to find a win in the five matches prior to that (one draw, four losses).

The last time these teams met: The Reds were big winners as two of their former key players in Quade Cooper and Lachie Turner both finished with two tries each in a healthy 32-10 victory. Cooper contributed further with three penalties and two conversions, with the Force only having a try from Dane Haylett-Petty to show for their efforts.

Players to watch: His debut came earlier than expected against the Waratahs when he was a first-half replacement but now Ayumu Goromaru gets his first start at full-back. Goromaru's goalkicking is obviously important but as an attacker he's underrated when it comes to how he's able to fix up defenders to create space for others outside him.

The Force will always rely meanwhile on Steve Mafi to get them over the gain-line whenever possible and it'll be the same at Suncorp. The rangy second row's long runs are made for this competition but the Force will also need him to make an impact in the tight five when it comes to taking on the Reds up front.

Team news: Reds head coach Richard Graham has made two changes to the starting lineup. An ankle injury to Henry Teafu (six to eight weeks) has forced a backline shuffle, with Karmichael Hunt shifting to inside centre and Japanese Test player Ayumu Goromaru making his run-on debut at full-back. On the bench, Ballymore Kid contract winner Junior Laloifi is in line to make his Queensland and Super Rugby debut.

Wallaby number eight Ben McCalman has been named on the bench in one of three changes to the Western Force team. Fijian-born flyer, Semisi Masirewa gets his first Super Rugby start. In the centres Solomoni (Junior) Rasolea comes in at number 12 to replace the injured Kyle Godwin.

Form: The Reds suffered losses to both the Crusaders and Brumbies in pre-season before last week's 30-10 defeat to the Waratahs, in which they were outscored by four tries to one. Meanwhile the Force nilled the Hurricanes and then defeated an Asian Pacific Dragons XV in pre-season before their six-point defeat to the Rebels in Round 1. Four of the Force’s last six matches against Australian opposition in Super Rugby have been decided by seven points or fewer.

Prediction: Given the Force's recent trend for close results against Australian rivals and having lost six out of their last seven matches away from home, this feels like a chance for the Reds to get their first win of the season. Reds by three.

Previous results:

2015: Reds won 32-10 in Perth
2015: Reds won 18-6 in Brisbane
2014: Force won 30-20 in Perth
2014: Force won 32-29 in Brisbane
2013: 11-11 draw in Perth
2013: Force won 19-12 in Brisbane
2012: Force won 45-19 in Perth
2012: Reds won 35-20 in Brisbane

The teams:

Reds: 15 Ayumu Goromaru, 14 Chris Feauai-Sautia, 13 Samu Kerevi, 12 Karmichael Hunt, 11 Eto Nabuli, 10 Jake McIntyre, 9 Nick Frisby, 8 Jake Schatz, 7 Curtis Browning, 6 Hendrik Tui, 5 Rob Simmons (c), 4 Cadeyrn Neville, 3 Greg Holmes, 2 Saia Fainga’a, 1 Ben Daley
Replacements: 16 Andrew Ready, 17 Sef Fa’agase, 18 Sam Balakai, 19 Ben Matwijow, 20 Michael Gunn, 21 Scott Gale, 22 Sam Greene, 23 Junior Laloifi

Force: 15 Dane Haylett-Petty, 14 Luke Morahan, 13 Ben Tapuai, 12 Solomoni (Junior Rasolea), 11 Semisi Masirewa, 10 Jono Lance, 9 Alby Mathewson, 8 Angus Cottrell, 7 Matt Hodgson, 6 Brynard Stander, 5 Adam Coleman, 4 Steve Mafi, 3 Guy Millar, 2 Nathan Charles, 1 Pekahou Cowan
Replacements: 16 Heath Tessmann, 17 Chris Heiberg, 18 Jermaine Ainsley, 19 Ross Haslett-Petty, 20 Ben McCalman, 21 Ian Prior, 22 Peter Grant, 23 Marcel Brache

Date: Saturday, March 5
Venue: Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
Kick-off: 18:45 local (08:45 GMT)
Referee: Angus Gardner
Assistant Referees: Nic Berry, Damien Mitchelmore
TMO: George Ayoub

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