'Excuses are for losers': Reds coach not interested in referees debate ahead of Sunwolves clash

Super Rugby
by Emma Greenwood

Reds coach Brad Thorn says he is not interested in debate over whether his team received short shrift from referees on their marathon Super Rugby road trip, believing "excuses are for losers".

The Reds head into Saturday night's first home game of the season against the Sunwolves at Suncorp Stadium with a 0-3 record despite having been in a winning position in each of their games.

And without neutral referees, decisions of the hometown whistle-blowers in South Africa and Argentina have come under the spotlight.

But Thorn wants no part of the talk, believing the Reds can overcome any "variables" if they remain on song for the entire game.

"We're in pursuit of excellence for 80 minutes and we haven't achieved that," the dual international and former Brisbane Bronco said.

"My old mentor Wayne Bennett, 'excuses are for losers' was his saying.

"There are variables, there are things that occur but let's get our game right and then you'll find if we get our game right, I think with the talent that's there, we'll come out on the right side of those results."

Thorn reluctantly conceded the Reds had sought clarification around some decisions by Argentinian referee Federico Anselmi after being on the end of a 14-3 penalty count last week.

"There's been a bit of contact but I don't want to talk about that," he said.

 

"It's done, it's in the past and it's all about tomorrow night. The focus needs to be on our game.

"If you've got the complete game, the perfect game, maybe you can start talking about other things but we're a long way from that.

"To me, all that stuff is peripheral and we're just striving - and that's the cool thing about rugby, you're never fully happy with your performance and you're just continually week after week trying to get better and grow your game and your combinations and that's what we're focused on, not negative stuff.

"I'm not interested in going over who talked to who or whatever, I just want to grow our game and we've got a really tough opposition in the Sunwolves."

The Reds head into Saturday night's clash with James O'Connor again wearing the no.10 jersey, a decision Thorn said was made in part to take the pressure off young-gun Isaac Lucas, who started at flyhalf in the season-opener against the Brumbies.

"Both of them played at 10 and shared 10 in the trials and for me, part of it was just de-pressuring for Isaac because he's a young 10," Thorn said.

"He's played mainly at fullback but we put him at 10 in the NRC and he got game time there in the trials and he's going to continue to get time there and I'll be looking for starting opportunities as well.

"But having a 30-year-old (O'Connor) there in a tough start to the season in away games, it's been a good thing and we'll continue to see how that plays along.

"But Isaac is an outstanding talent, that's why he's in the 23. And in the role he's in, the game opens up in that last 20-30 minutes and he can bring something there as well.

"Isaac's doing really well, James is doing really well, we're just trying to grow our game.

"It'll be interesting to see how that evolves throughout the season."

Thorn said the plan had been communicated to Lucas, who remained an important part of the squad.

"As Eddie Jones said at the World Cup, it's not the game you used to know, it's 23 men and there's guys outside the 23 as well," he said.

"Angus Scott-young isn't playing this weekend and it's not because of form, he's playing really well, but we're using the full squad."

Junior Wallabies captain Fraser McReight has taken Scott-Young's place on the bench and Thorn is not opposed to playing the openside specialist in tandem with regular no.7 Liam Wright.

Wright is just as adept at no.6 and can also play at no.8, with fellow backrowers Lukhan Salakaia-Loto and Harry Wilson also able to adjust on the run.

"I think it's just one of those things you read (during the game). Fraser brings a huge ability to slow down their ball and with the Sunwolves playing at a pretty high-tempo pace, it's going to come in handy," he said.

"Our backrow's pretty complimentary at the moment. Harry's got that line-bending ability, Lukhan's massive in attack and defence and I'm somewhere in between.

"When Fraser comes on, we'll adapt and slide around to fit. We've practised in all situations, everyone's got that skillset."

The Reds take on the Sunwolves at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane on Saturday, February 22, kicking off at 7:15pm AEDT (6:15pm local), with the match broadcast LIVE on Fox Sports, Kayo and via RUGBY.com.au RADIO.