The Reds know their fading Super Rugby finals hopes can be given a massive boost with a win over a weakened Blues outfit in Auckland on Friday night.
There’s no more excuses for the Reds as they aim to revive their ailing Super Rugby campaign against a weakened Blues outfit in Auckland on Friday.
The Queenslanders sit 13th after their 35-21 loss to the Hurricanes in Wellington last weekend, their third defeat on the bounce.
While not out of finals contention, time is running out for the Reds to show they have the ability to turn things around and make a late charge.
Coach Richard Graham has made several changes for the match, mostly aimed at stiffening a porous defence and competing with the Blues’ All Black front-row.
Veteran prop Greg Holmes will come into tight-head with James Slipper moving across to loose-head.
Wallabies flanker Liam Gill is also a welcome return from hamstring injury while Anthony Fainga’a replaces Ben Lucas in the starting XV.
Flyer Rod Davies is the other change, replacing rookie Jamie-Jerry Taulagi on the left wing.
Reds skipper James Horwill says the team is only too aware of their situation.
“We understand that we’re not where we want to be,” he said.
“Last week we let ourselves down with some critical errors and that’s not enough at this stage of the season.
“It’s a very close comp. We need to start winning and there’s no better time to do that than this weekend.”
While Blues coach Sir John Kirwan was trying to deflect pressure onto the Reds, the Aucklanders are also in danger of losing touch with the finals race if they can’t pick up a win.
In their favour they have won all four of their home fixtures so far this season but centre Francis Saili was ruled out after limping off with an ankle injury during training on Wednesday.
He’ll be replaced by Jackson Willison while Brendon O’Connor has been given the job of replacing injured skipper Luke Braid.
Kirwan has also made alterations to his forward pack with Jerome Kaino coming in at No.8 while Peter Saili moves to the No.6 jersey.
Friday’s match, which will be Quade Cooper’s 100th appearance for the Reds, begins at 7.35pm local time (1735AEST).