Reds assistant coach hails star Barnes - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Reds assistant coach hails star Barnes

By Wayne Heming 24/03/2009 07:49:26 PM Comments (0)

Assistant coach Damon Emtage has dubbed Reds star Berrick Barnes the world's best defensive centre, ahead of Queensland's Super 14 clash against the Chiefs at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday.

Barnes, who is tipped to retain the captaincy, despite the return of skipper James Horwill from injury, has won a legion of fans with his courage, composure and ability to make the right plays.

Emtage was full of praise on Tuesday for the defensive talents of Barnes and backline teammates Digby Ioane and rugby league convert Mark McLinden, who'll have their hands full against a Chiefs side that scored 63 points against the Blues on Saturday.

"Berrick is the key for us because he reads (the play) so well," said Emtage.

"He tends to bring the line up when it needs to come up and he tends to bring the line across as well.

"I think he's the best defensive centre in the world."

Emtage said his underrated backs would be "licking their lips" at the challenge awaiting them.

He said 94kg Ioane's sheer ferocity defending front-on had shocked many.

"He gets more opportunity to put bone on bone," he said.

"Digby loves the physicality and he's added another dimension to our game."

Like Barnes, Emtage said former Canberra Raider McLinden is also a step ahead of the play.

"Mark took a little while to adjust but he's done his homework," he said.

"His positional play is quite uncanny."

The Reds' forwards stood tall against the physical Sharks earlier this month but Emtage said it was the back's turn to contain a rampant Chief's attack which ran in nine tries against the Blues to secure their third successive victory.

It was a display Waikato skipper Mils Muliaina hailed as one of the club's most complete performances.

The Reds, who beat the Shark in their last outing in week five, haven't recorded back-to-back wins since April 2006 when they beat South African sides the Cats and Bulls.

They will come into Saturday's game on the back of a bye week without suspended No.9 Will Genia who is sidelined for three weeks.

Subsequently, Wallaby hopeful Ben Lucas, 21, gets a chance to lock up the halfback job.

Genia and Lucas, who have contrasting styles, have been competing for the job, but Lucas, who graduated from the Reds' academy to Australia A last year, can make it his, Emtage said.

"This is Ben's chance to really show us what he's got," he said.

Horwill's return from a complicated foot injury is not only timely but adds experience and leadership to a side pumped following its great upset win.

"I'd rather start," declared Horwill who's worked tirelessly to get back on the field.

"I'm ready to go."

"They are probably the form team of the comp at the moment and they've put three wins back to back now," said Horwill.

"We have to make sure we put in a quality performance to beat a quality side."

The Reds are nursing injuries to a few key players with Hugh McMeniman, Ben Lucas, Quade Cooper and training absentee Peter Hynes all battling injury niggles.

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