Horan tips Reds for tough year

2009-01-28 11:11
Predicting a long year for the Reds (File)
Queensland - Wallaby great Tim Horan has called for the supporting cast of the Reds to stand up and be counted, or watch their side struggle through another season.

Horan, who made 119 appearances for Queensland to go with his 80 caps for Australia, says while he had faith in the Reds' headline stars, the next tier of players needed to rise to the occasion or watch another campaign slip away in disarray.

The Reds, who lost 17-5 in their opening trial to the Waratahs in Toowoomba last week, travel to Auckland to play the Blues on Friday night and will welcome back 10 front-line names.

The Reds have a young side but enough experience in Wallabies Berrick Barnes, James Horwill, Peter Hynes, Quade Cooper and highly-rated All Black flank Daniel Braid to mean there will be no excuses allowed if the season turns sour.

Horan, honoured on Australia Day for his services to rugby as well as his work with charities, said he had faith in Barnes, Horwill and company but warned the Reds would find the going difficult if the rest of the squad failed to follow suit.

"I think this year is going to be a lot harder for them. They've lost a lot of experience with Chris Latham and David Croft and Sam Cordingley. Roey (former skipper John Roe) was also an unsung hero, so I think it will be a tough year for them," Horan said.

"The most important players for the Reds are the mid-tier players. They have a group of young stars who have the experience - Barnes, Horwill - but it's the group below them that has to really step up."

Horan's comments will be aimed squarely at players like new fullback Mark McLinden, backrower Leroy Houston, prop Greg Holmes and backline players such as streaky winger Digby Ioane and mercurial centre Morgan Turinui.

That group will also be called upon to take a serious step up when Queensland's depth is invariably tested at some stage through the season.

Horan, regarded as one of rugby's most damaging three-quarters in his 11 years in the green and gold, said the Reds needed to aim for five or six wins this season and take some serious strides forward from the disappointment of recent campaigns, which has seen them miss the Super rugby finals for seven consecutive years.

"It's hard to go into a Super 14 thinking you won't win the competition. That has to be the aim. I think they need to be aiming to win five or six games, which they haven't been able to do for the past number of years," Horan said.

"If they do that, that can sometimes be enough to get you close to the four coming to the end of the season."

The Reds will name their team for the Auckland trial on Wednesday. Stand-in skipper Barnes, who will lead the side until Horwill returns from injury in March, will be rested until the final trial with the Western Force at Ballymore on February 5.

Braid will make his Reds debut against his former club while Ioane, Hynes, Cooper and impressive scrumhalf Ben Lucas will all get their first taste of rugby for 2009.


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