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Reds wary of luckless Lions

Jim Morton 30/03/2011 07:53:33 PM Comments (0)

Reds coach Ewen McKenzie is keen to start rotating Queensland's troops in the extended Super Rugby campaign but is wary of flicking the switch on a Lions outfit which reminds him of his own.

Seven rounds into the 18-week regular season, McKenzie is considering a number of changes, including resting Wallabies lock Rob Simmons, for Sunday morning's (AEST) clash with John Mitchell's developing last-placed team in Johannesburg.

While Simmons deserves a break, the coach is also mindful of protecting key combinations and ensuring third-placed Queensland continue to build important momentum heading into upcoming matches against the pace-setting Stormers, defending champion Bulls and arch-rivals NSW.

The Lions have triumphed in just one of their six matches but have been in the hunt at the death in four tight defeats to South African rivals, while their worst loss was 27-15 to the Western Force.

McKenzie likened last year's winless wooden-spooners to the Reds team he took over from Phil Mooney at the end of 2009 following six seasons languishing in the bottom three of the competition.

"They're playing with a lot of new faces but playing with a good spirit and they're frustrated because they're not quite nailing (the results)," he told AAP.

"That's familiar territory, we know all about that and I just know once you start getting over the line and finishing games off it's quite powerful.

"They're not far away and we don't want to be the catalysts (for change).

"They'll trouble teams every week and we'll give them the respect they deserve. They've got a difficult style of play.

"They've got the best ability to play multiple-phase footy in all the teams. They can play 20 phases with no trouble."

McKenzie must make one enforced change with Kiwi super-sub Mike Harris favoured ahead of Luke Morahan to replace the injured Ben Lucas at fullback.

League convert Will Chambers is pressing to return at outside centre after the Reds experiment with back-up inside centre Ben Tapuai produced mixed results in the past two lop-sided wins over the Melbourne Rebels and Cheetahs.

McKenzie said he was mindful of giving more time to players on the bench and fringes, with former Wallabies prop Guy Shepherdson "a prime example".

Shepherdson is yet to make his debut for the Reds but has impressed on the training paddock and McKenzie would like to get him and others up to speed alongside regular starters before injuries rear their head.

On the flip side, Simmons has played almost every minute this season and McKenzie has the likes of Adam Wallace-Harrison and Radike Samo competing for one bench spot.

"We're two games into a tough block of nine games and it's a pretty tough gig and I don't think we'll get through that block with 15 (starting) blokes," he said.

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