The Queensland Reds face a momentous test when they open their Super Rugby season against the Brumbies on Saturday night. Phil Lutton examines five keys to victory.
Hit the deck Ask any modern rugby coach the key to domination and they invariably fire back with "winning the breakdown". The Reds may not need to belt the Brumbies on the ball but they at least need to hold their own if they are to win. The catch is, Queensland are going to try and match the Brumbies on the ball with less players. Being "more clinical" is the phrase which means less men on the ground and more men on their feet and ready to attack. It's a risk-reward tactic that the Reds must get spot on to avoid this one turning into a stodgy affair that plays right into the hands of the home side.
Kid and play Aidan Toua has been superb during the trials and although he's hardly a teenager, the 24-year-old has only played five games of Super Rugby in three years. His running game is exceptional but the old hands at the Reds need to give him plenty of help as the Brumbies send it skyward all night. Expect Quade Cooper to cycle back to take some pressure off and help out with the tactical kicking.
Just a little patience The Brumbies succeeded in frustrating the Reds in both encounters last year, with the Queenslanders bashing their heads against brick walls at times. The Reds need to bide their time, work hard in close and pick their moments to attack. They need to take the match into their own hands and not pick-and-drive relentlessly in the hope of penalties or even a yellow card.
The substitutes Richard Graham has largely opted for experience against the Brumbies, with young guns like Curtis Browning not even in the squad. That said, he has talent like Chris F'Sautia on the bench and when he injects him into the game late could be key, given his ability to bust tackles in open play. Hardheads like Beau Robinson also shape as key contributors late. Ewen McKenzie generally picked his moments well in terms of the reserve bench - Graham must do the same.
Keep calm and carry on Leigh Matthews always loved to say his preferred state of mind for players - and even coaches - was to remain "emotionally neutral". The Reds must focus on the task at hand in Canberra and not let emotions get in the way of the game plan. There was a Twitter joke between rugby writers on who could be the first to say there is genuine dislike between the sides. In that case, the cold pie is mine. The Reds see the Brumbies as pretenders to the Australian crown, the Brumbies see the Reds as yesterday's news. Whoever holds their nerve might get the last laugh.