The implications of a Super Rugby home loss for the Queensland Reds against the Western Force on Saturday night don’t bear thinking about.
So it’s understandable that Reds players aren’t burdening themselves with outside noise going into what seems one of just a few winnable games for the rebuilding side this year.
Bookies have Queensland as solid favourites to beat the Force, who they got half of their four-win output from last season, in front of a home crowd at Suncorp Stadium that will be baying for blood if they don’t follow through.
But embattled coach Richard Graham, who needs a win more than anyone else, says the only expectation the Reds are feeling is their own.
“I don’t think there’s pressure from the expectation of the supporters, there’s pressure obviously in here on the way we want to play the game,” Graham said.
“For us it’s delivering a performance consistently for 80 minutes. That’s through our accuracy, execution, work ethic – those key things we’ve driven hard through the pre-season.”
Asked if the Reds felt like favourites, stand-in skipper Rob Simmons said: “I don’t really pay much attention to that.”
“We’re just focusing on ourselves and improving our total performance as a team. If we keep doing that we’ll win more than we lose.”
There is plenty of scope for improvement.
Just about the only thing the Reds got right consistently in their opening-round defeat to the Waratahs was their scrum, which will receive a stern test from the Force and their returning Wallaby No.8, Ben McCalman, who slots into the back row after his stint in Japan.
Not that Queensland has done much forensic analysis of the Force, who were also beaten last weekend, at home by the Rebels.
“I don’t think this team is at a stage where we can focus on the opposition too much,” Simmons conceded.
The area of most intrigue for the Reds is their inexperienced backline, which receives an injection of class with Japanese pin-up boy and ace goalkicker Ayumu Goromaru set for his first start at fullback.
Making way for him is a fast-improving Karmichael Hunt, the code-hopper shifting into the No.12 jersey for the next six weeks after a high ankle sprain to rookie Henry Taefu.
“We’ve seen he’s been pretty strong through the NRC in the centres,” Simmons said.
“He’s got a good partnership with Jake (McIntyre) and provides a lot of chat for him at 10 there, so it will be quite interesting to see how he goes.”