Near enough not good enough for Reds

Super Rugby
by Sam Phillips

Near enough will not be good enough when the Reds face the Crusaders tomorrow night and James Slipper is the first to admit that.

It's cliche but the Crusaders are the ultimate 80 minute team.

Snooze for a five minute period and they can easily put two or three tries on the board, blowing the game out of the water.

While they were okay in patches, Queensland's second half performance against the Force must not rear its ugly head if they are to challenge a team that eradicated a 21 point deficit inside 30 minutes in its last start.

Izaia Perese and Izack Rodda will be looking to add punch to the Reds starting XV. Photo: QRU Media/Brendan HertelSlipper knows this and said addressing the team's slow starts were top priority.

"It was very disappointing, the first few days were pretty sobering but we came back and we were worked really hard," he said.

"The start of the week, Monday and Tuesday, were pretty tough but we’re pretty confident - we had to fix a few things that weren’t good enough.

"We are looking to start better this week because the first three games (including the Rebels trial) I think we have conceded a try in the first five minutes."Slipper was downtrodden after the loss to the Force. Photo: Getty ImagesWhen questioned as to what wasn't up to scratch, Slipper pointed to field position and the set piece.

"There’s a few things but I think definitely the decision making around how we are playing and what part of the field we are playing in - that sort of stuff - we have addressed that this week," he said.

"As a forward pack we were really disappointed with how our set piece went last week.

"I thought our lineout really struggled and if you look back at the tape a lot of it was just our own fault.

"We’re trying to clear that up at training, work hard on that and the scrum will speak for itself - we are up against a handy scrum so it’s going to be a tough battle."Hendrik Tui gets his first start for 2017 tomorrow night. Photo: Getty ImagesCoach Nick Stiles has sent a strong message with three changes to the starting XV - particularly in dropping Wallaby Kane Douglas - but it's a tone that had to be set after the "atrocious" performance against the Force.

"Performances like what we put out against the Force aren't good enough," he said.

"We've made some tough decisions but I'm really happy with the players we chose to come into the starting XV.

"You don't want to be shoving the ball back down the Crusaders' throats and getting them to run it back at us so getting that balance between when we kick and kicking in numbers is going to be important."

The inclusion of Izaia Perese, Izack Rodda and Hendrik Tui is an indication Stiles is ready to fight fire with fire, as the trio all bend defensive lines with every touch of the ball.

The Crusaders boast players that do exactly that from prop to fullback and their set piece is immaculate.

A Reds win tomorrow night would be a strong marker that they are the Australian Conference contenders that their summer recruitment drive designed them to be.