Reds relishing ‘tour’ life

Life in their Sydney “bubble” suits the unbeaten Queensland Reds as they prepare for Saturday night’s Super Rugby AU clash against the Melbourne Rebels at AAMI Park.

Due to the COVID-19 outbreak in Brisbane that led to the city’s current three-day lockdown, the Reds remained in NSW following their 46-14 thrashing of the Waratahs at Stadium Australia on Saturday night.

Currently based at Sydney beachside suburb Coogee, the Queenslanders are scheduled to fly to Melbourne on Thursday.

“For us it’s almost like being on tour,” star Reds flyhalf James O’Connor said.

“The first week of a tour’s always pretty beautiful. The team gets together, you can bond a little bit more … the boys are in good spirits.

“Obviously if it starts dragging on a little bit, getting into weeks … that’s when it maybe becomes another story, but for us right now the plan is still to be able to get back home after this next game hopefully.

“We’re just focusing on training well … and then travel to Melbourne and do the job down there.”

A message to all Queenslanders from skip in Sydney

O’Connor, who continues to captain the Reds in the ongoing, injury-enforced absence of regular skipper Liam Wright, is expecting a tough encounter against the Rebels.

The sides met last month at Suncorp Stadium, with the Reds winning a tight encounter 23-21.

“They’ve been in the contest every game whether they’ve won or possibly lost by a few points,” O’Connor said of the Melbourne side.

“We’re taking this one as almost a final. We know the style of play that they play, that Test match intensity, they’re a physical outfit … and they’ve got some big men up front.

“We’re going to meet them at their game. This is one we want badly.”

The Rebels are in third spot on the ladder, 13 points adrift of the Reds from one less match.

The second-placed Brumbies, who are just three points behind Queensland, host the struggling Waratahs on Friday night.

It will be the Waratahs first game since the sacking of coach Rob Penney.

O’Connor sympathised with Penney, who was axed 24 hours after the Reds’ demolition of NSW.

“I feel for him because there were a lot of injuries to some crucial guys in their team,” O’Connor said.

“I thought they were playing some good attacking footy. Obviously the scorelines blew out a couple of times. I’m sure the guys who have been given the job (co-interim head coaches Jason Gilmore and Chris Whitaker) will be up for it.”

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