Bryant backed to fill backrow void as Reds embrace Highlanders challenge

Thu, Apr 18, 2024, 4:00 AM
Lachlan Grey
by Lachlan Grey
William Havili Try from Round 8 of Super Rugby Pacific 2024

Reds skipper Liam Wright is excited to see young tyro John Bryant in full flight as Queensland look to re-boot their 2024 campaign on home soil this Friday.

Bryant, 21, will make his starting Super Rugby Pacific debut against the Highlanders tomorrow night (Friday 7:35pm AEST) in place of Fraser McReight, who was handed a three-week suspension alongside Tate McDermott after seeing red against Moana Pasifika last week.

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Speaking to media on Thursday, Wright backed Bryant and scrumhalf Kalani Thomas to step up and "express themselves" in the starting XV.

"Suspensions and injuries are a part of rugby these days so they're ready to take their shot, especially in a home game against the Highlanders," Wright said.

"JB's dynamic, really exciting and really fast. We saw against the Rebels when he got a bit more time that he came on and got a pilfer at the death which helped us ice the game.

"I'm just looking forwards to him having a bit more time to express himself, I think he's naturally that sort of player and looking forward to seeing how he steps up.

"Kalani's been waiting for his shot for a long time and I think he's ready so we're going to use those guys just as much as we would use Tate and Fraser. That's the beauty of this team, when we need to pick up the load we can and stay in the fight of the game."

McDermott's suspension leaves Wright as sole skipper but the flanker won't change his style of leadership as the Reds look to arrest a three-game losing slump against a Highlanders side chasing their first victory since Round 3.

"I'll miss Tate's guidance and decision making around the field, I think we've been working well together and coming up with the right calls there but it's an opportunity to step up and consult with other leaders on the team," Wright said.

"(My) role as a member of this team is to try and lead from the front, put my actions at the forefront of what we do.

"We are desperate to get a win but I don't think it's desperation stations. We just want to put our best foot forward, we want to go back to the fundamentals which give us a good game plan and we want to keep figuring out about ourselves.

"As a squad, we're still relatively news in terms of Les and the other coaches coming in so we're still trying to find exactly what works for us and this weekend's a good test for us to go back to what worked earlier in the season."

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