Lismore gets Super rugby trial

NEW Queensland coach Ewen McKenzie will lead his squad for the first time to Lismore after it was confirmed that the Reds and NSW Waratahs will play a Super 14 rugby union trial game in the city.
The confirmation of the trial, which The Northern Star foreshadowed two months ago, came the same day McKenzie was appointed Reds coach, adding a twist to the Lismore visit.
McKenzie, who last came to Lismore as head coach of the Waratahs in 2005, was confirmed as the new boss of the troubled Reds. He is their seventh coach since 2000.
McKenzie joins his former Randwick teammate and ex-Wallabies coach Eddie Jones as the second non-Queenslander to guide the Reds, signing a three-year deal.
He takes over from the axed Phil Mooney just a month after being dumped himself by Paris glamour club Stade Francais.
McKenzie beat out former Wallabies and Queensland coach John Connolly for the post after the Queensland Rugby Union decided it wanted a long-term appointment.
The former Wallabies prop believed his experience in managing change counted in his favour and said he was excited about helping   restore Queensland’s fortunes.
In Sydney, the Waratahs released their pre-season itinerary, confirming Lismore as the venue for their annual pre-season clash with the Reds.
NSW will take on Queensland, probably at Crozier Field, on January 23. They will play the Fiji Warriors at Orange the following week before a final trial game against the Brumbies in Canberra.
“We’ve been in discussions for quite a while with Lismore City Council and Orange City Council about bringing the Waratahs to the Far North Coast and Central West,” NSW chief executive officer Jim L’Estrange said.
“We still have a couple of things to finalise, however it’s great to now be in a position where we can announce these matches will be going ahead.
“The enthusiasm from both of these areas to bring top-line rugby to the people is perfectly in line with our aim to ensure as many people as possible across the State have the chance to see their team, the Waratahs, live.”
“Country rugby in NSW has an extremely strong history and it remains strong today. Heading to Lismore and Orange are further examples of spreading our wings and we’re really looking forward to being there in January.”
L’Estrange confirmed a visit by NSW officials to Lismore next Wednesday to inspect the local facilities.
“You can’t under-estimate the importance of these matches,” he said.
“The Super 14 is such an intense competition that you need to hit the ground running to succeed.
“The Waratahs have completed the past two pre-seasons undefeated, which has been a great platform on which to start the season, and with three away games to start 2010, these matches will hold extra importance.”
NSW has a horror start to the season, playing the Reds in Brisbane before heading to South Africa for games against the Stormers in Cape Town and the Bulls in Pretoria.
Far North Coast rugby identity Howard Atkinson, who has been the driving force behind organising the Lismore trial, was delighted with the announcement yesterday.
“I’m ecstatic. It will be great for rugby in the area and a great sporting event,” he said.
“It’s important for the Waratahs to come to the North Coast with the exposure the area has to the Gold Coast Titans and AFL.”
The Lismore City Council has backed the event and agreed to finance the travel and accommodation costs of the Waratahs, believed to be about $15,000.

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