Planet Rugby

Preview: Reds v Highlanders

29th May 2014 08:42

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Will Genia dive pass for Reds

Pressure on: Reds

Few would have predicted the Reds to be bottom of the standings with four rounds to play but that's where they are ahead of facing the Highlanders.

Three wins from nine makes for dismal reading for the former champions, who have struggled to hit anywhere near their 2011 title-winning heights.

Expansive rugby that saw Will Genia and Quade Cooper have the ball on a string while a mobile pack offered much has just not been on show in 2014, with the departures of Scott Higginbotham in 2013 to the Rebels and more recently Digby Ioane to the Top 14 clearly hurting their options.

Statistics don't hide their woes as not one Reds player occupies a top ten spot in either carries, metres made, defenders beaten or clean breaks.

Pre-season had painted a very different picture, however, as the Reds looked in good nick with slick service and running lines causing those who they faced a great deal of problems. Unfortunately for whatever reason that form has not translated to the competition as the pressure mounts on them.

Richard Graham will hope that with it being Genia's 100th game for Queensland, the Suncorp Stadium and its players rise to the occasion on Friday and find some form.

Meanwhile, the Highlanders remain very much in the hunt for top spot in New Zealand as despite their narrow and controversial loss against the Crusaders last week, they sit a point off the men from Christchurch in a four-horse race that also includes the 'Canes and Chiefs.

Had that Patrick Osborne effort been given the green light by the TMO then the table would have looked a whole lot different. Jamie Joseph cannot allow that mindset to creep into his charges though, but one does expect a circle around that July 12 finale in Christchurch.

One area he feels needs addressing is their first-up tackles as they slipped nearly 30 tackles in that loss. That number should decrease and with the Reds attacking threat not what it was - some way off the Crusaders - the Highlanders should have enough to triumph.

Form: The Reds are on a six-game losing streak and what's worrying is that four of those negatives have come on home soil. Meanwhile, the Highlanders are on a lost, won, won, lost run right now but all four off those games have been decided by two points or less.

Recent results:

2013: Reds won 34-33 in Dunedin
2012: Reds won 19-13 in Brisbane
2010: Reds won 38-36 in Brisbane

Prediction: We can't see the Reds stopping the rot against this side. Highlanders by 10!

The teams:

Reds: 15 Mike Harris, 14 Dom Shipperley, 13 Ben Tapuai, 12 Anthony Fainga'a, 11 Rod Davies, 10 Ben Lucas, 9 Will Genia, 8 Jake Schatz, 7 Beau Robinson, 6 Curtis Browning, 5 James Horwill (c), 4 Rob Simmons, 3 Greg Holmes, 2 James Hanson, 1 James Slipper.
Replacements: 16 Andrew Ready, 17 Albert Anae, 18 Sef Faagase, 19 Dave McDuling, 20 Liam Gill, 21 Nick Frisby, 22 Samu Kerevi, 23 Jamie-Jerry Taulagi.

Highlanders: 15 Ben Smith, 14 Richard Buckman, 13 Malakai Fekitoa, 12 Shaun Treeby, 11 Patrick Osborne, 10 Lima Sopoaga, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Nasi Manu, 7 Shane Christie, 6 Gareth Evans, 5 Joe Wheeler, 4 Jarrad Hoeata, 3 Ma'afu Fia, 2 Liam Coltman, 1 Kane Hames.
Replacements: 16 Ged Robinson, 17 Matias Diaz, 18 Chris King, 19 Tom Franklin, 20 Elliot Dixon, 21 Fumiaki Tanaka, 22 Hayden Parker, 23 Phil Burleigh.

Date: Friday, May 30
Venue: Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
Kick-off: 19.40 local (09.40 GMT, 10.40 BST)
Referee: Andrew Lees (Australia)
Assistant referees: Rohan Hoffmann (Australia), Graham Cooper (Australia)
Television match official: Steve Leszczynski (Australia)

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