Reds' Holmes ready for Blues scrum assault - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Reds' Holmes ready for Blues scrum assault

By Jim Morton 29/06/2011 04:23:15 PM Comments (0)

Queensland's longest-serving current Red, Greg Holmes, is braced for a Blues scrum assault in a rare front-row start in Saturday night's Super Rugby semi-final.

Former Wallabies loosehead prop Holmes is expected to win the hotly-contested tighthead role ahead of scrum specialist Guy Shepherdson when Reds coach Ewen McKenzie announces his team on Thursday.

Holmes's dynamic 74-minute last-start display off the bench against the Chiefs and his greater work-rate around the field is set to see him fill the big boots of injured scrum anchor James Slipper at Suncorp Stadium.

Slipper suffered a high-ankle strain in Hamilton which has exposed Queensland's set-piece as a bigger target for the more experienced and bigger Blues pack to attack.

All Blacks Keven Mealamu and John Afoa were dominant in the second half of the Reds' 37-31 win in Brisbane six weeks ago and have since been bolstered by menacing loosehead Charlie Faumuina.

Regular super-sub Holmes on Wednesday admitted he was yet to know McKenzie's plans but was under no illusions the Aucklanders' front-row will sense a massive opportunity at scrum time.

"They would be silly if they didn't," he told AAP. "We've lost Slips, our No.1 tighthead, and they got the better of us in the second half of our last game so it will be an area they will be targeting.

"If we can swing that around in our favour that will go a long way to us winning the game.

"We've invested a fair bit of time there and hopefully come the weekend that area shouldn't be a problem for us."

Since Ben Daley leapfrogged Holmes as Queensland's starting loose-head last year, the 70-cap prop, who debuted in 2005, has developed his tighthead play to provide solid bench cover on both sides.

McKenzie has spent the past week trialling Holmes, Shepherdson and rookie Albert Anae in the No.3 position alongside Saia Faingaa and Daley in the front-row.

He kept his cards close to his chest on Wednesday afternoon but conceded Holmes, who played the last of his 13 Tests at the 2007 World Cup, did all he could in the 19-11 win over the Chiefs.

"It's a big challenge but he's playing good rugby in both attack and defence," McKenzie said.

"He's playing some of the best footy of his career."

"I've got two Wallabies props and one will start and one will come off the bench."

While the Blues should have the scrum advantage, the Reds have the edge in the lineout with injured lock Anthony Boric (foot) replaced by back-rower Chris Lowrey.

The Blues have also kept the Reds guessing by recalling dangerous winger Rene Ranger from a hamstring injury but bracketing him with goalkicking talent Lachie Munro.

With flanker Beau Robinson returning from injury along with key backs Digby Ioane and Queensland, Liam Gill is set to drop out of the starting 15 but could play off the bench with McKenzie considering a 5-2 forwards-backs split.

Likely Queensland team: Jono Lance, Rod Davies, Anthony Faingaa, Ben Tapuai, Digby Ioane, Quade Cooper, Will Genia; Radike Samo, Beau Robinson, Scott Higginbotham, James Horwill (capt), Rob Simmons, Greg Holmes, Saia Faingaa, Ben Daley. Res: James Hanson, Guy Shepherdson, Adam Wallace-Harrison, Jake Schatz, Liam Gill, Ian Prior, Dom Shipperley.

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