‘Game on’ as Thorn’s Reds eye Super finals
Queensland Reds coach Brad Thorn insists there has been improvement in his side this season but is only interested in wins now as a Super Rugby finals spot beckons.
A win to break a six-year, 10-game losing streak against the NSW Waratahs on Saturday would keep the Reds in the mix of what Thorn described as a "juicy" Australian conference.
Brad Thorn is feeling bullish ahead of the Super Rugby finals.Credit:Darren England/AAP
They will need to do it with a new fullback though, with Hamish Stewart (shoulder) out of action and Junior Wallabies talent Isaac Lucas on national duties.
The Reds (23 points) trail the ACT Brumbies (29) and Melbourne Rebels (28) in the Australian Conference, while the Waratahs (22) have faltered and will arrive at Suncorp Stadium desperate to stay in touch.
With five games remaining the Reds have already equalled their five-win season in Thorn's first year and the coach has moved on to bigger goals.
"They've performed really well against us over quite a period of time and are a traditional foe," Thorn said of the Waratahs' dominance.
"There's that side of it, but the part of it that interests me is that there's an opportunity to go further in this competition.
"I know there's been improvement, no question there's been growth … that's a positive but the main positive for the club is winning.
"It's game on, isn't it."
Even without Israel Folau the Waratahs are flush with Wallabies talent and it has shown on the scoreboard in recent seasons.
But Thorn's side have won four of their past six games at home against Australian opposition – more wins than they managed in the 16 before that.
Effective combinations in key positions have helped that resurgence, with Lucas proving a threat with a superb try against the Rebels after replacing Stewart early in last Friday's tight loss.
But the Reds will have to wing it at fullback this Saturday given the Junior Wallabies' new hard and fast rules that insist they have priority access to Super Rugby talents.
Thorn said Stewart's injury appeared to be a short-term one, while biting his tongue when asked about Lucas.
"Outstanding talent … played eight games this season, disappointed he can't represent us on Saturday but pleased be can be part of the Australian 20s," he said.
Jock Campbell, Matt McGahan, Aidan Toua and Duncan Paia'aua have all been floated as options at the back, although Thorn was not willing to volunteer an early favourite ahead of Thursday's team selection.
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