Reds looking to Lismore

QUEENSLAND Reds head coach Ewen McKenzie has confirmed he is closely monitoring at least three new players for a potential role in his revitalised plans for the embattled Super 14 outfit next year.

That plan begins against the Waratahs in Lismore next month when the first trial of the season sets a blockbusting pace for a carbon copy start to the Super 14 program at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane just three weeks later.

The Reds have two new faces this year in former France-based flanker Lei Tomiki and rugby league convert Will Chambers, and the double is likely to become a trio in the wake of Reds rookie winger Luke Morahan being called up to the Wallabies in their end-of-year UK tour.

Morahan has settled into the Reds’ senior squad after making his debut from the QAS Reds Academy this year and McKenzie said he would almost certainly be run on in Lismore.

“It’s hard to leave him out after Robbie Deans gave him that chance,” McKenzie said from Brisbane yesterday.

“Although he didn’t get that much actual game time on tour, it would have done him the world of good to be exposed to the Wallaby systems and training.

“On that alone he will be a better player in 2010 and Lismore will have something to look forward to.”

McKenzie has described the Lismore trial on January 23 as a ‘dress rehearsal for the big one’, making it clear he wanted the Reds getting the Super 14 season off on the right foot against the side he previously coached from 2004 to 2008.

“Every player who takes the field for us in Lismore will be auditioning for a spot in the squad for the big Suncorp match.

“The coaching staff are new to the Reds this year and we will be looking for players who are keen to make the most of the opportunity.

“While Morahan has put his form on the board to an extent, we are keen to get Tomiki and Chambers involved early in the year, especially to see how Chambers is handling the switch in codes.”

McKenzie said he had already been impressed by the extent of talented young front-rowers in the Reds squad.

“They’ll be a test first-up for the Waratahs,” he said.

His early line-up includes acclaimed rookie of the year and former Sydney tighthead prop Laurie Weeks, loosehead prop Ben Daley and rising Academy front-rower James Slipper.

“Then we have former Wallaby loosehead prop Greg Holmes, who has now recovered from the neck and shoulder problems that dogged his 2009 season. You can be assured Greg will be looking to remind the younger guys he’s back.

“That’s the sort of competition for places we’re after.”

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