Wallabies and Waratahs winger Drew Mitchell has resigned himself to missing the Waratahs Super Rugby opening round match against the Reds and has admitted that he is enduring the toughest spell of his career.
Super Rugby’s swashbucklers, the Queensland Reds, have two major hurdles to overcome to successfully defend their title: an injured Quade Cooper and being in their rivals’ cross-hairs.
As good as the Reds (15-3) were in taking the competition by storm in 2011, they effectively flew under the radar as most attention was on the Crusaders, Blues and Stormers.
This year, Queensland will turn from hunters into the hunted.
And they must cope with the pressure without enigmatic five-eighth Cooper who equally bewildered defenders with his mesmerising play and reliably carried out calculated, field-position game plans when the need arose last year.
Cooper’s post-World Cup knee reconstruction will sideline him until April and a round seven clash with the Brumbies.
Mike Harris and Ben Lucas are auditioning for the playmaking hot seat and while the critics believe the Reds won’t be as dangerous without Cooper, the Wallabies five-eighth warned that his replacement would slot in and effectively steer the ship.
The Waratahs depth on the wing is being severely tested and the season has not even begun as Lachie Turner is out for most of the season and Atieli Pakalani is struggling with a shoulder injury.
Mitchell’s fitness is becoming crucial for the Waratahs but he says he is doubtful for next week’s Super rugby opener.
Mitchell missed much of last season after landing awkwardly playing against the Reds but fought his way back to fitness and made the Rugby World Cup where he suffered a tournament-ending ankle injury against Russia.
Mitchell went under the knife in December to have a bone spur removed but now a torn tendon has delayed his comeback.