Bold Reds eye Super Rugby history - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Bold Reds eye Super Rugby history

By Jim Morton 07/07/2011 07:15:25 PM Comments (0)

Most football teams love underdog status but not the Queensland Reds, who are boldly aiming to create the dynasty their Super Rugby final opponents hold.

Reds' coach Ewen McKenzie on Thursday took umbrage that the jet-lagged Crusaders had been installed as $1.60 favourites for Saturday night's decider at a sold-out Suncorp Stadium.

A surprised McKenzie was upset his team, which finished the regular-season on top of the standings to earn hosting rights, were still seen as battlers despite a two-season resurgence.

The seven-time champion Crusaders do have the history, experience and sentiment on their side but they must also overcome a hectic travel schedule which has seen them fly 100,000km this season and 28,000km in the past fortnight.

"We're not favourites in this game which I find disappointing," McKenzie said.

"People want to grab the underdog status. We don't want to be the underdog.

"We'd love to go into the game being the favourite. Bookmakers see it another way. That's disappointing to us.

"For me, it's a search for credibility - we've come a long way. We've got a bit further to go, obviously.

"If we can win a final, we solve some of those doubts.

"We don't want to just be a one-hit wonder. We want to be there for the long haul."

It's strong talk that McKenzie has worked hard to instil in his players since he lifted them from second last in 2009 - their sixth season in the bottom three - to fifth last year.

The former NSW coach took the Waratahs to two finals - both against the Crusaders in Christchurch in 2005 and 2008 - but they fell short both times.

With Wallabies' duo Will Genia and Quade Cooper the most influential halves' pairing in the competition, McKenzie conceded he has a better-equipped side, as well as a more hospitable ground, to reverse his final fortunes.

"We've derived a lot of pleasure and benefit in playing at Suncorp in front of big crowds and players enjoy that so, if there's going to be an edge, we're hoping it's going to be in that," he said.

Both McKenzie and Crusaders' coach Todd Blackadder named unchanged teams on Thursday.

In a good omen for the Reds, the only time they fielded the same starting 15 this season, Queensland overcame the Crusaders 17-16 at home.

With All Blacks' halfback Andy Ellis cleared of shoulder and knee injuries sustained in the 29-10 semi-final win in Cape Town, the visitors have 10 from their starting 15 who played in the 2008 final.

Blackadder said self-belief was sky-high within his group, knit tightly by February's Christchurch earthquake, and denied travel issues would be a factor countering the high-tempo Reds' play.

"We're not tiring," he said. "I think it's going to be a brutal game.

"I think the Reds play with such width and they attack and they probe and they will continue to do what they've been doing because they've been really successful."

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