Reds rag doesn't irk White
Brumbies coach Jake White at training on Thursday. Photo: Graham Tidy
It is being billed as the rivalry between Australia's best teams but it is turning into a war between masterminds as Jake White and Ewen McKenzie continue to trade jibes before the Super Rugby opener.
And ACT Brumbies coach White believes the Reds are in a ''position of weakness'' after McKenzie refused to reveal his line-up for the clash at Canberra Stadium on Saturday night.
White accused McKenzie of trying to play mind games with his side earlier this week and the Reds coach didn't disappoint when he named a 23-man squad instead of a starting side for the round-one match.
McKenzie openly admitted naming a squad was part of a plot to distract the Brumbies.
White contemplated naming a 24-man squad before he saw an opportunity to seize an advantage.
''If that's how they [the Reds] pick their team, then that's fantastic for them,'' White said.
''I remember sitting here last year and saying about the Sun Tzu book [The Art of War] says if you react to your opposition you're in a position of weakness.
''We've got our team, we know exactly what we're going to do and if they haven't decided what they're going to bring, good luck to them.
''They can bring 47 people and decide at the last minute who the XV are, so be it.
''That's the style they have, it suits them. Good luck to them, what gives us confidence is every boy knows the team … it's nothing to hide. At the end of the day it's about getting out there and doing it now.''
The Brumbies and Reds have built a strong rivalry over the past three years.
After the Brumbies dominated the contests in the first 14 years of Super Rugby - they lost just one game - the Reds have won three of the past four matches between the teams.
The Reds won both matches last season, but had Zack Holmes slotted a penalty after the siren in May, the Brumbies would have retained the Rod Macqueen Cup.
McKenzie, a former Brumbies prop, is no stranger to trying to break a Canberra hoodoo.
When he was coach of the NSW Waratahs, he wanted the team to embrace the trip to the capital to end their poor record in the ACT.
The Waratahs bus was parked outside Brumbies headquarters in Griffith and in front of the War Memorial to announce his team's arrival.
But the Brumbies are refusing to be ruffled by the pre-match banter between the two coaches - White a World Cup winner and McKenzie a Super Rugby titleholder.
Despite struggling against the Reds in the past three seasons, the Brumbies are favourites to win the match and get their season off to a strong start.
It is a tag that was unheard of last season as White began his mission to rebuild the Brumbies with players most fans had never heard of.
While McKenzie says his team doesn't deserve to be the underdog, favouritism sits comfortably with the young Brumbies.
''The Reds won [the title] three years ago and knocked us off three times last year [including a trial match], but this is a perfect opportunity for us in the first round,'' ACT second-rower Sam Carter said.
''We're just focusing on what we need to do to win the game, not who's the favourite.
''If you want to win the competition you've got to do well against other teams in your conference and this is a perfect opportunity to do that at home.''