Preview: Reds v Force – 26/05/2017

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The Reds will be looking to make it back-to-back wins when they take on the Western Force in Brisbane on Friday.

The Reds have not secured consecutive wins since Round 17, 2014. This shows just how much they have fallen from grace since they won the entire competition back in 2011.

This season they have only mustered three wins in their 11 games. However, they did win their last match against the Rebels and will be fresh having come off a bye last weekend. Plus, they are the home side and their opponents struggle when playing away from home.

It proves just how poorly the Aussie sides have fared in this season’s competition that the Reds are still in with a play-off chance. They will be desperate to close the gap on the Brumbies at the top of the Australian Conference who lead them by seven points.

The Force are three points behind the Reds in fourth place, also having won only three of their 11 games this season but are trailing by virtue of having accumulated fewer bonus points.

This is an opportunity for Dave Wessels’ side to leapfrog their more illustrious rivals. However, morale will be low after the Highlanders recorded their biggest winning margin over the Force last weekend in Perth. This meant their previously proud home record was made a mockery of.

One thing leaning in their favour, though, is their impressive recent record against the Reds. They have won four of the last six meetings between the sides.

However, they must keep tabs on Reds wing Eto Nabuli, who scored a hat-trick against them last time out. Nabuli has scored the most tries of any player outside of New Zealand in this year’s competition with a tally of eight.

The last time the teams met: The Force beat the Reds 26-19 earlier this season in Round Two. Tries from Chance Peni, Matt Philip and Curtis Rona as well as three penalties from Ian Prior and a Jono Lance conversion proved too much for the away side. Eto Nabuli was unlucky to be on the losing side despite scoring a hat-trick.

Team news: For the Reds, injury has forced the only change to their starting side, with Chris Kuridrani replacing young winger Campbell Magnay, who was ruled out of the match due to a concussion suffered against the Rebels.

The only other changes to the team are in the reserves. James Tuttle returns to the matchday 23 in the back-up scrum-half role in place of Moses Sorovi, with Jake McIntyre and Lachlan Maranta also brought onto the bench in place of Australian U20s representatives Hamish Stewart and Izaia Perese.

Stiles said: “It’s nice to be able to put out a fairly consistent team and reward guys for their performance against the Rebels two weeks ago.

“We felt we’ve made a lot of progress as a group in recent weeks and are really starting to hit our stride, but it doesn’t get any easier this week. We know the Force will come into this match desperate for a win. We need to match that desperation and desire for 80 minutes and if we do that, we should produce a performance we can be proud of.”

This Friday’s match will also see Reds hooker Stephen Moore equal Keven Mealamu’s record as the second-most capped Super Rugby player of all time, when he runs out for his 175th match in the competition.

For the Force, Francois van Wyk and Heath Tessmann return to the starting front row as Pek Cowan and Tatafu Polota-Nau are set to provide impact off the bench.

Up and coming lock Matt Philip comes into the starting second row, after a strong showing off the bench last week.

Michael Ruru will start at scrum-half after an impressive performance last week in his return from an ankle injury suffered in Round Nine against the Kings.

James Verity-Amm will start on the right wing, while Marcel Brache will marshal the troops from full-back in his return from concussion.

Mitchell Short and Luke Burton have been included on the bench.

Form: The Reds opened their 2017 Super Rugby campaign with a win over the Sharks. Six straight defeats followed against the Force, Crusaders, Lions, Jaguares, Hurricanes and Brumbies. They then bounced back with a win over the Kings before losing to the Waratahs and Chiefs. They come into this game fresh off a bye having beaten the Rebels two weeks back.

The Force, like the Reds, have won three of their 11 games thus far this season. Those wins came against the Reds, Kings and Jaguares while they have lost to the Waratahs, Brumbies, Crusaders, Blues, Chiefs, Lions, Sharks and Highlanders.

Previous results:

2017: Force won 26-19 in Perth
2016: Force won 22-6 in Brisbane
2015: Reds won 32-10 in Perth
2015: Reds won 18-6 in Brisbane
2014: Force won 30-20 in Perth
2014: Force won 32-29 in Brisbane
2013: The teams drew 11-11 in Perth
2013: Force won 19-12 in Brisbane

The teams:

Reds: 15 Karmichael Hunt, 14 Chris Kuridrani, 13 Samu Kerevi (c), 12 Duncan Paia’aua, 11 Eto Nabuli, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Nick Frisby, 8 Scott Higginbotham, 7 George Smith, 6 Hendrik Tui, 5 Lukhan Tui, 4 Rob Simmons, 3 Sam Talakai, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 Sef Fa’agase
Replacements: 16 Alex Mafi, 17 Kirwan Sanday, 18 Taniela Tupou, 19 Izack Rodda, 20 Adam Korczyk, 21 James Tuttle, 22 Jake McIntyre, 23 Lachlan Maranta

Force: 15 Marcel Brache, 14 James Verity-Amm, 13 Curtis Rona, 12 Bill Meakes, 11 Alex Newsome, 10 Peter Grant, 9 Michael Ruru, 8 Isireli Naisarani, 7 Matt Hodgson (c), 6 Ross Haylett-Petty, 5 Adam Coleman, 4 Matt Philip, 3 Jermaine Ainsley, 2 Heath Tessmann, 1 Francois van Wyk
Replacements: 16 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 17 Pek Cowan, 18 Tetera Faulkner, 19 Richie Arnold, 20 Richard Hardwick, 21 Mitchell Short, 22 Luke Burton, 23 Luke Morahan

Date: Friday, May 26
Venue: Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
Kick-off: 19:45 local (09:45 GMT)
Referee: Brendon Pickerill
Assistant Referees: Rohan Hoffmann, Jordam Way
TMO: Damien Mitchelmore


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