White sees Red at mind games
Brumbies coach Jake White at training on Tuesday. Photo: Colleen Petch
Forget about Queensland's ''mind games'' and focus on ''making a statement'' - that's Jake White's message to the ACT Brumbies as they try to stamp themselves as the team to beat in the Australian Super Rugby conference.
White threw a jab to the Reds on Thursday when he said that Ewen McKenzie was trying to distract his team by ruling Wallabies skipper James Horwill out of the round-one clash at Canberra Stadium.
And while McKenzie has taken a step back to be the director of coaching, White is adamant he will still be calling the shots for Queensland on Saturday night.
The Reds have ruled Horwill out of the blockbuster season-opener as he continues his recovery from ankle surgery.
But White suspects McKenzie is trying to play a mental game before the blockbuster contest and expects the experienced lock to be on the field in the capital.
''Last year they said that Quade Cooper got injured in the hotel and wasn't going to run out and then he ended up playing the whole game [won 13-12 by the Reds in Canberra],'' White said.
''At the end of the day it's all mind games now - that's the way the Reds operate.
''They come up with 'this guy's not available, that guy could play, this guy is sick'.
''It's irrelevant. At the end of the day we have to focus on what we want to get right, and that's make sure we get a win in Canberra on Saturday.
''We want to bring back the glory days of Canberra and Brumbies rugby and we understand that, and if that means it's a derby game and we have to do whatever, we'll have to make sure we deliver.''
The Reds have traditionally been the Brumbies bunnies in Super Rugby.
Queensland had not won in Canberra in Super Rugby history until they toppled the Brumbies a week after Andy Friend was sacked in 2010.
Now the Reds have won four of the past five contests between the teams.
The Brumbies could have knocked the Reds out of finals contention last season had Zack Holmes converted a penalty shot after the siren.
Instead, the Reds won by one point and clinched the Super Rugby guaranteed play-off berth when the Brumbies choked in the last regular-season game.
The Reds have reshuffled their coaching structure this season, with Richard Graham now the head coach and McKenzie overseeing the rugby program.
But White believes McKenzie is still a ''hands-on'' leader for the Reds.
White is hoping for 20,000 fans for the round one match, with Clyde Rathbone returning, an intense Australian rivalry heating up, and marquee recruit David Pocock making his Brumbies debut.
Pocock has signed a three-year deal to play in Canberra and the Brumbies now boast one of the best openside flankers in world rugby.
The 24-year-old missed the bulk of the Wallabies season last year with a knee injury.
In his absence Reds star Liam Gill and former Brumby Michael Hooper proved they were worthy challengers to Pocock's stranglehold on the Test No. 7 jersey. ''It's fantastic for Australian rugby to have depth in all positions and going into [the 2011 World Cup], No. 7 was a real area of concern for us,'' Pocock said.
''Two years down the track we've got three guys who can fill that role.
''That's what you want in Australian derbies, you want to go up against the best. I look forward to playing all of those guys.
''It definitely adds to your training and you're constantly pushing yourself, but a lot of the motivation comes from within to be the best player you can be.''