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Harris gets his chance to show Deans as SBW awaits

Date

Chris Barclay

He sees red … Queensland's Mike Harris tries to elude David Pocock of the Western Force. Harris marks Sonny Bill Williams in the centres as the Reds host  the table-topping Chiefs at Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium tomorrow.

He sees red … Queensland's Mike Harris tries to elude David Pocock of the Western Force. Harris marks Sonny Bill Williams in the centres as the Reds host the table-topping Chiefs at Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium tomorrow. Photo: Getty Images

MIKE HARRIS finally gets an opportunity to confront the Sonny Bill Williams phenomenon head on as the Wallabies hopeful from North Harbour continues auditioning for an inside-back berth for the June internationals by marking up against one of New Zealand's finest.

Since returning from a hamstring injury against the Stormers on April 20, the 23-year-old utility has confronted Ma'a Nonu and Daniel Carter in successive rounds - and Williams looms as the Super Rugby-leading Chiefs take on the defending champions at Suncorp Stadium tomorrow.

Harris missed the regular-season win over the Crusaders in Brisbane last year and was still in rehab when the Queensland Reds beat Richie McCaw's men in the title decider.

''It's pretty exciting for me, it's a challenge I'm looking forward to,'' said Harris, who will try and form a midfield blockade with outside-centre Anthony Faingaa, another key player back to full fitness.

Ewen McKenzie's back line successfully shut down the Crusaders' dynamic duo of Williams and Robbie Fruean last year - then-fullback Ben Lucas, defending at No.10 for Quade Cooper, set the tone on May 29 when he cut the All Blacks star down the first time he carried the ball.

Ben Tapuai, now sidelined with a broken collarbone, and Faingaa also cramped the Crusaders' style that night and again in the final.

And Harris hopes history repeats when he and Faingaa seek to replicate the defensive effort that helped keep the Crusaders tryless in Christchurch for the first time since 2000 last weekend.

There is no coincidence that the Reds' defensive system has been upgraded by the return of Faingaa, who started last weekend for the first time since round one, while goalkicker Harris has always been regarded as a reliable tackler.

''Anthony and myself have a good combination. We pride ourselves on shutting down those types of players,'' said Harris, referring to the obstacles posed by Williams and centre partner Richard Kahui.

Williams looms large over any opposition but Harris, who crossed the Tasman last year after being consistently overlooked by the Blues, and his teammates said it would be folly to neglect the threats posed by Kahui, Aaron Cruden and wing Lelia Masaga.

''Cruden's their playmaker. He's the one that controls the game and pulls the strings,'' said Reds and Wallabies halfback Will Genia.

''There was a big deal made about Sonny when we played the Crusaders last year but all you have to do is tackle low and make sure you do your best to stop the offload, and I guess you nullify that threat.''

If Harris, who is eligible for the Wallabies through an Australian-born grandmother, can follow those instructions his prospects of being involved in the season-opening Test against Scotland on June 5 will be enhanced. ''I was hearing positive things last year, so hopefully I can have three really good games [before Scotland],'' he said.

Wallabies coach Robbie Deans will rely heavily on Reds and Western Force players for the one-off Test because they have a bye before Super Rugby takes a break.

There is also only a four-day turnaround before the opening match of a three-Test series against Wales, where the top team will be picked.

Meanwhile, the Reds welcome back loose-head prop Ben Daley and openside breakaway Beau Robinson, who is on the bench, after the pair missed the trip to Christchurch with minor hamstring and leg injuries. Greg Holmes drops to the reserves, while back-up prop Albert Anae and Wallabies No.8 Radike Samo revert to club rugby.

Otherwise, McKenzie has named a settled squad, a reason he is confident they can climb the overall ladder from ninth.

Rugby Internationals 2014

Round 1
Sat, 07 JunTimes shown AEST
SAM 18 vs TGA 18 Report Stats
FJI 25 vs ITA 14 Report Stats
NZL 20 vs ENG 15 Report Stats
AUS 50 vs FRA 23 Report Stats
Sun, 08 JunTimes shown AEST
RSA 47 vs WXV 13 Report Stats
ARG 17 vs IRE 29 Report Stats
USA 6 vs SCO 24 Report Stats
CAN 25 vs JPN 34 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 2
Sat, 14 JunTimes shown AEST
SAM 15 vs ITA Report Stats
FJI 45 vs TGA 17 Report Stats
NZL 28 vs ENG 27 Report Stats
AUS 6 vs FRA Report Stats
Sun, 15 JunTimes shown AEST
RSA 38 vs WAL 16 Report Stats
CAN 17 vs SCO 19 Report Stats
ARG 17 vs IRE 23 Report Stats
USA 29 vs JPN 37 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 3
Sat, 21 JunTimes shown AEST
ARG 19 vs SCO 21 Report Stats
FJI 13 vs SAM 18 Report Stats
JPN 26 vs ITA 23 Report Stats
AUS 39 vs FRA 13 Stats
NZL 36 vs ENG 13 Report Stats
Sun, 22 JunTimes shown AEST
RSA 31 vs WAL 30 Report Stats
USA 38 vs CAN 35 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 4
Sun, 29 JunTimes shown AEST
RSA 55 vs SCO 6 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 5
Sun, 02 NovTimes shown AEDT
BAR vs AUS 01:30Twic
USA vs NZL 07:00Soldier Field
View All Fixtures
Round 6
Sun, 09 NovTimes shown AEDT
ITA vs SAM 01:00Stadio Del Duca
ENG vs NZL 01:30Twic
WAL vs AUS 01:30MilS
FRA vs FJI 03:45Stade Velodrome
IRE vs RSA 04:30Lansdowne Road
SCO vs ARG 04:30Murrayfield Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 7
Sun, 16 NovTimes shown AEDT
ITA vs ARG 01:00Stadio Comunale Luigi Ferraris
ENG vs RSA 01:30Twic
WAL vs FJI 01:30MilS
SCO vs NZL 04:30Murrayfield Stadium
FRA vs AUS 07:00StdF
Mon, 17 NovTimes shown AEDT
IRE vs GEO 01:30Lansdowne Road
View All Fixtures
Round 8
Sun, 23 NovTimes shown AEDT
ITA vs RSA 01:00Stadio Plebiscito
SCO vs TGA 01:30Rugby Park
IRE vs AUS 03:30Lansdowne Road
WAL vs NZL 04:30MilS
ENG vs SAM 06:00Twic
FRA vs ARG 07:00StdF
View All Fixtures
Round 9
Sun, 30 NovTimes shown AEDT
ENG vs AUS 01:30Twic
WAL vs RSA 01:30MilS
View All Fixtures
 
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