McLinden gets crack at fullback for Reds - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

McLinden gets crack at fullback for Reds

By Laine Clark 21/01/2009 09:14:51 PM Comments (0)

As far as code switches go, former Canberra Raiders playmaker Mark McLinden's transition has been rated a howling success by the Queensland Reds.

Now just one test remains - actually playing a rugby game.

Suffice to say Reds coach Phil Mooney will be watching with interest when McLinden makes his professional rugby debut in Queensland's opening pre-season trial against the NSW Waratahs this weekend.

McLinden, 29, will get first crack at the "big shoes" left at fullback by legendary No.15 Chris Latham after being named for the match at Toowoomba, west of Brisbane, on Saturday night.

None of Queensland's six current Wallabies will play, ensuring the local spotlight will shine brightest on their league convert.

Mooney said McLinden had shone at training since arriving from English Super League club Harlequins for the Reds' 2009 Super 14 season.

But Mooney knows only too well that a match situation will provide the best yardstick.

"Mark's done all we have asked of him at training but he really needs to play now," Mooney said on Wednesday.

"We will endeavour to give him as much time in the trials as we can.

"This is a great opportunity to give Mark a run against quality opposition."

Mooney confirmed it would be McLinden's first senior rugby match.

"He played rugby at schoolboy level and earned Australian under 16 selection but back in Canberra there were no Brumbies so he chose the rugby league path and had a very successful league career (at the Raiders)," he said.

Plenty of pressure awaits McLinden as the Reds search for someone to follow in Latham's footsteps.

But it is nothing new for McLinden.

"There's big shoes to fill here. Chris Latham is a legend. But it was similar when I started at Canberra - Laurie Daley was a pretty big name too," said McLinden, who starred in the halves during his seven year stint at the Raiders.

Former Brisbane Bronco Rod Davies has also been included in a team that will be captained by Leroy Houston in the absence of Wallabies James Horwill (foot injury) and Berrick Barnes (rested).

It may be his first Reds game but Davies has more rugby experience than McLinden - he played in a 2006 Australian Schools backline that also included Queensland's Wallaby flyhalf Quade Cooper and NSW dangerman Kurtley Beale.

Barnes was this week named as interim Reds skipper with Horwill not expected back until March 21.

In the absence of the Reds' Wallabies contingent, new signing Anthony Faingaa will play at flyhalf against NSW with Charlie Fetoai and Brando Va'aulu in the centres.

Mooney said the front row positions were "up for grabs" in 2009, with former Wallaby Greg Holmes the No.1 prop.

Dayna Edwards, Ben Daley, Laurie Weeks and Jack Kennedy will begin competing for front row Super 14 selection when they play this weekend.

Queensland squad: Mark McLinden, Blair Connor, Brando Va'aulu, Charlie Fetoai, Rod Davies, Anthony Faingaa, Brendan McKibbin, Leroy Houston, Poutasi Luafutu, Scott Higginbotham, Adam Byrnes, Robert Simmons, Laurie Weeks, James Hanson, Ben Daley. Reserves: Saia Faingaa, Jack Kennedy, Dayna Edwards, Jake Schatz, Will Genia, Morgan Turinui, Aidan Toua, Luke Morahan.

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