Queensland coach Richard Graham has made six changes to the Reds’ starting side for their Super Rugby clash with the Crusaders.
Queensland vice-captain Will Genia has given under-pressure coach Richard Graham unqualified support as the Reds fight to avoid falling into Super Rugby’s wooden-spoon position.
The Wallabies’ halfback on Thursday declared Graham, who made six changes to play the Crusaders, had done an outstanding job in his maiden season despite the Reds’ 3-7 record.
Queensland are 13th overall and face the very real prospect of ending up dead last if they fail to snap a four-game losing streak on Sunday at Suncorp Stadium.
They would be leapfrogged if South African strugglers the Cheetahs (at home to Western Force) or the Stormers (playing the Bulls in Pretoria) win and the Reds lose.
Genia admitted the Reds were paying the price for a drop in defensive standards and “looking too far ahead” earlier in the season.
Graham, the former Force coach who impressively took charge of the Reds’ defence duties last season, has found the going much tougher replacing Ewen McKenzie as Queensland boss.
But Genia indicated the new mentor had plenty of support from his playing group.
“I think Richard has done an outstanding job,” he said.
“I think he’s worked really hard, not just as a rugby coach but also as a mentor for the young blokes we have coming through.
“They have to learn how to train and play at this level and he’s done an outstanding job with helping those guys through.”
Rangy back-rower Curtis Browning is another young gun to get his first run-on start on Sunday.
Graham had considered moving Test lock Rob Simmons to blindside flanker with Ed Quirk and Liam Gill both injured, but instead gave Browning his long-awaited crack.
Front-rowers James Hanson and Ben Daley have been promoted, Beau Robinson regains Gill’s No.7 jersey, and Dom Shipperley replaces Chris Feauai-Sautia (shoulder) on one wing while Rod Davies has been dumped for Jamie-Jerry Taulagi on the other.
Genia, who cut his teeth when the Reds were easybeats from 2006-09, said it was crucial the team rolled with the punches and stayed tight.
“Hard work is what is going to get us out of it and back to where we want to be,” he said.
Reds: Mike Harris, Dom Shipperley, Ben Tapuai, Anthony Fainga’a, Jamie-Jerry Taulagi, Quade Cooper, Will Genia; Jake Schatz, Beau Robinson, Curtis Browning, James Horwill (capt), Rob Simmons, Greg Holmes, James Hanson, Ben Daley. Res: Saia Fainga’a, Albert Anae, Jono Owen, Ed O’Donoghue, Dave McDuling, Nick Frisby, Ben Lucas, Rod Davies.