Reds skipper urges team to step up against Tahs
RUGBY UNION: Scott Higginbotham has urged his Queensland Reds teammates to seize the day and prove they are Test material against a NSW Waratahs side laden with Wallabies.
The Waratahs have 10 players in Michael Cheika's squad for the upcoming series against Ireland, most of them regular starters for both club and country.
The Reds have six, including potential debutants Caleb Timu and Brandon Paenga-Amosa.
But Higginbotham said even those who were snubbed by selectors should be on a mission in Saturday night's Super Rugby clash at Suncorp Stadium.
"I think there's good opportunities for the boys in the Queensland side," he told reporters on Friday.
"I spoke to the boys yesterday about (how) it's a good opportunity for the guys who are in the squad and who didn't make the squad to put your hand up and show that you've got that sort of potential to start at that level."
Higginbotham wasn't picked and will likely never get another look in at Test level again - but his back-row partner Caleb Timu can go a long way towards locking in a berth against Ireland with a strong performance.
With Ned Hanigan injured and New Zealand Rugby unlikely to release Pete Samu to join the Wallabies without compensation, the No.6 jersey is there for Timu's taking.
"To have someone like Caleb who's in a similar position like me and to be able to work with him through the year and to see him achieving goals, it's fantastic," Higginbotham said.
Hamish Stewart wasn't chosen but has been invited to train with the Wallabies next week.
Stewart will lead the Reds attack against the Waratahs with Jono Lance shunted back to fullback to make way for the talented 20-year-old, who will start at five-eighth for only the second time at Super Rugby level.
"He's a strong footballer. It's impossible when you're defending your line to get Hamish out of the ruck, you've actually got to drag him out," Higginbotham said.
"It's good to have that sort of mongrel in a game-controller like that."
The Waratahs lead the Australian conference ladder on 31 points - 12 ahead of the Reds, who sit fourth.
Waratahs coach Daryl Gibson was confident the Tahs would perform well against a strong Reds lineout.
He said NSW hadn't talked about winning eight straight against Queensland or taken much out of their big victory over the Reds at the SCG earlier in the season.
"We've had some heartbreaking defeats over the last three-to-four weeks, but through all that we see that we have improved some things," he said.
"We get to really test ourselves and just see how far we've come.
"We know Queensland at Suncorp it's going to be very difficult. They will be a different beast there. They've shown that this year through their home performances."
Despite the Tahs recent dominance, Gibson felt the old rivalry between the teams was getting stronger again.
"It's returning to those standards particularly in the way Queensland play the game,' he said.
"(Reds' coach) Brad (Thorn) has set his team up to be very physical."