Reds use "mini preseason" to tune up for penultimate clash

Super Rugby
by Sam Phillips

While the other Australian Super Rugby franchises were playing in Japan or Mauritius, the Reds were put through a "mini preseason" in their quest to build a better fitness edge.

Fitness was a hot topic in the aftermath of the June Tests, with Michael Cheika and players, including skipper Stephen Moore, admitting the Wallabies were below the fitness level required to play top level Test rugby.

While Stiles' initiative wasn't aimed at directly addressing those queries, it is an innovative approach to ensuring players are at peak performance for the tail end of the Super Rugby season.

"We're all striving to be better," Stiles said.

"The whole Australian Conference has struggled, Australian rugby is struggling, so there are many different areas where we can improve.The Reds have been put through some tough fitness work during the June break. Photo: RUGBY.com.au/Stuart Walmsley"Skill level, our execution under fatigue and that then links into our fitness.

"We're all trying to improve in those areas and that is something in Australian rugby, when we had the coaches conference a few weeks ago, we were all on board with, in terms of a national program around our strength and conditioning.

"The reality is, your best players are with us for six months a year and then they are with the Wallabies for the other six months a year.

"We need to have that collaboration so we can all get the best out of them."

Stiles will be hoping the additional conditioning will address Queensland's inability to play at a high level for 80 minutes this season.Stephen Moore and the Reds were thumped in Canberra. Photo: Getty ImagesThere have been patches of brilliant play but none of it sustained and that has left the Reds with just three wins with two matches to play.

There was no better example of that inconsistent play than the last time they faced the Brumbies, when they went into the half time break at 10-all before allowing 33 unanswered points in the second term.

"I was gutted, I don't think I had felt that way about a result of a game as a player or a coach for an exceptionally long time," Stiles said.

"It was a really poor 40 minutes so I hope the boys have reflected on that and are ready to come out and out together an 80 minute performance against the Brumbies because you know they will."Will Karmichael Hunt move to the centres for Friday's clash with the Brumbies? Photo: Getty ImagesStiles is faced with a selection conundrum at outside centre, with Samu Kerevi considered a slim chance of being named to face the Australian Conference champions tomorrow morning.

Campbell Magnay has been participating in full training this week and he will be favourite to start at outside centre, though there has been some thought that Karmichael Hunt may shift to 13, with Hamish Stewart potentially coming in at fullback.

"K still plays a lot in the front line for us anyway - it's not like he went from playing the traditional fullback position to then playing 12 for the Wallabies," Stiles said.

"He will still spend time up front for us but he has been a really good footballer for us at 15 this year.

"It's a trade off, do we make a positional change for him or do we keep what's good for the Reds?"

The Reds face the Brumbies on Friday night at Suncorp Stadium, kicking off at 7:45pm AEST, broadcast LIVE on FOX SPORTS and on radio at RUGBY.com.au.

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