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Preview: Reds v Crusaders

09th May 2014 11:14

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Greg Holmes Reds v Crusaders 2013

Clash of former champs: The Reds host the Crusaders

In desperate need of a positive result, the Reds face an uphill battle in Brisbane on Sunday against a Crusaders outfit reaching top form.

The Queenslanders' Super Rugby title in 2011 seems a distant memory as six losses from their past seven matches has left the Reds languishing at the bottom of the Australian conference.

On current form it's hard to see how they can turn the bus around against a Crusaders side that has gone from strength to strength in recent weeks.

The seven-time champions have shrugged off a slow start to the season and once again look like genuine title contenders following back-to-back wins over both of last year's finalists.

The Reds by contrast conceded 10 tries in heavy losses to the Hurricanes and Blues in recent clashes against Kiwi sides and have been struck by a spate of injuries to key personnel. Chris Feauai-Sautia (shoulder), Liam Gill (calf) and Ed Quirk (ribs) are all injured while James Slipper is suspended.

With just three wins from ten games this season, Reds coach Richard Graham is under massive pressure.

"Obviously it's tough times on the back of four straight losses, but you've just got to roll with it," said scrum-half Will Genia this week.

"It's obviously very disappointing, but that's part of sport, there's always winners and losers.

"The match against the Crusaders is an easy one to get up for, a benchmark side for many years now, and we're obviously very motivated.

"The message to the team from guys like James, Quade and myself is to keep backing ourselves and keep working," he said.

"It's a little bit of a cliche, but in tough times you've just got to stay tight and work hard."

For the Crudasers have been boosted by the return of All Blacks skipper Richie McCaw, who produced a vintage display against the Brumbies last week.

Tood Blackadder has been spared some tough choices in his back row by the absence of Kieran Read and an injury to Matt Todd, which allows McCaw to return to his usual position of openside flank.

Sunday's game is the first meeting of the two sides at Lang Park since the 2011 Final. The last meeting between these teams (2013) saw the Crusaders record their biggest ever win over the Reds (38 - 9).

The Crusaders have the best discipline in Super Rugby so far, conceding just 9.2 penalties/free-kicks per game.

Form: The Reds are coming off a four-game losing streak and were given a 30-point thrashing by the Blues in Auckland last week. Their last two home games saw defeats to the Brumbies (23-20) and the Force (32-29). The Crusaders have won their last four games, beating the Brumbies 40-20 last week. They have also won their last three matches on the road.

Previous results:
2013: Crusaders won 38-9 in Christchurch
2012: Crusaders won 15-11 in Christchurch
2011: Reds won 18-13 in Brisbane
2011: Reds won 17-16 in Brisbane

Prediction: The Reds have won the last three fixtures between these sides in Brisbane but on current form it's hard to seem the topple the Crusaders. Crusaders by nine points.

The teams:

Reds: 15 Mike Harris, 14 Dom Shipperley, 13 Ben Tapuai, 12 Anthony Fainga'a, 11 Jamie-Jerry Taulagi, 10 Quade Cooper, 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 Ben Daley.
Replacements: 16 Saia Fainga'a, 17 Albert Anae, 18 Jono Owen, 19 Ed O'Donoghue, 20 Dave McDuling, 21 Nick Frisby, 22 Ben Lucas, 23 Rod Davies.

Crusaders: 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Johnny McNicholl, 13 Rey Lee-Lo, 12 Ryan Crotty (c), 11 Nemani Nadolo, 10 Colin Slade, 9 Andy Ellis, 8 Luke Whitelock, 7 Richie McCaw, 6 Jordan Taufua, 5 Samuel Whitelock, 4 Luke Romano, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Corey Flynn, 1 Wyatt Crockett.
Replacements: 16 Ben Funnell, 17 Tim Perry, 18 Nepo Laulala, 19 Jimmy Tupou, 20 George Whitelock, 21 Willi Heinz, 22 Tyler Bleyendaal, 23 Nafi Tuitavake.

Date: Sunday, May 11
Kick-off: 16:05 local (07:05 BST, 06:05 GMT)
Venue: Suncorp Stadium
Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Rohan Hoffmann (Australia), Damien Mitchelmore (Australia)
Television match official: Steve Leszczynski (Australia)

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