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Ioane no certainty for Reds return

By Jim Morton 10/03/2010 08:39:25 PM Comments (0)

Reds strike weapon Digby Ioane believes he may have to bide his time on the bench if he gets his desire to return to Super 14 action against former team Western Force.

Ioane remains unsure whether Queensland coach Ewen McKenzie will select him for Sunday's Australian derby at Suncorp Stadium due to a lingering knee injury.

Both the 24-year-old and fellow Wallabies flyer Peter Hynes (finger) missed the Reds' gutsy 23-18 upset of the Chiefs and McKenzie is considering giving the pair an extra week off leading into the round six bye to ensure they fully heal.

Ioane said the form of fill-ins Luke Morahan, Will Chambers and Brando Va'aulu gave McKenzie a surprise third option of bringing him back as an impact weapon off the bench.

"I'm not too sure, hopefully it will be right," the eight-Test three-quarter said.

"It looks like it but it depends on the coach. I've got to impress him.

"I missed last week and the boys went well so I might find myself on the bench."

Ioane has battled a recurring knee problem for the past four years, making his effort in becoming one of world rugby's most destructive ball runners as all the more remarkable.

He knows an extra week off will allow him to be in peak condition for the rest of the Super 14 but desperately wants to play the Force, who he represented in 2006 and 2007.

"It's a game I really want to play," he said. "The Force and the Reds is always a big game.

"(But) my knee has been playing up since the start of the season and you have to look after it and try to make sure it doesn't get worse.

"You're not a machine so you have to look after it."

But the winless Force, coming off a bye last weekend, are preparing as though both winger Ioane and fullback Hynes will take their places in the back three.

"We expect them all to play, that's way you need to prepare so the expectation is they will play," said Force backs coach Richard Graham.

The Force have backline decisions of their own to make with James O'Connor a starter at either inside centre or fullback.

New recruit David Hill, who played one Test for the All Blacks in 2006, will take over at five-eighth but Graham said injury concerns over "two or three" unnamed outside backs would determine O'Connor's role.

The 19-year-old - who has impressed in all three positions this year after injuries struck down Andre Pretorius, Mark Bartholomeusz and Cameron Shepherd - will keep the goalkicking responsibilities ahead of Hill.

Graham, the Wallabies skills coach, has been duly impressed with the development of both O'Connor and Queensland playmaker Quade Cooper since last year's Grand Slam tour.

"Quade has certainly matured and is giving his team good direction," he said.

"I think his time under Robbie (Deans) last year certainly assisted his development and Ewen has him playing very well this year."

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