Reds will embrace ‘Canes challenge

Was last week’s win over the Cheetahs a turning point for the Queensland Reds – or a lucky outlier in a season of woe?

There is no better way to find out than with a visit to Suncorp Stadium by the Super Rugby leaders, the Hurricanes, on Sunday.

Smarting after copping their first loss of the season last weekend, the Hurricanes have named a near-full strength team and their high-risk, high-reward approach should be too much for another depleted Reds side – at least, on paper.

Newly-resigned Queensland captain James Slipper says Sunday’s clash is more “exciting” than daunting, and believes posting back-to-back wins is very much a possibility for the Reds if they can execute.

“It’s also going to be a tough encounter,” he said.

“But that’s what makes it exciting – if you do play good rugby then anything can happen.

“The team’s got full confidence in the gameplan, we’ve just got to go out there and execute it.

“We’re pretty excited to try and back up a good win with another one.”

The Reds will have to do it without fullback Karmichael Hunt, who has been ruled out with an adductor injury, while the seasons of back-up forwards Curtis Browning (knee) and Ben Daley (dislocated shoulder) have met a premature end.

Meanwhile, an off-field storm is brewing around injured five-eighth Quade Cooper, who is considering taking up a rich two-year deal with French club Toulon.

The Top 14 outfit trumpeted Cooper’s signature via social media on Friday night but the Reds are adamant they are still in with a shot of retaining the Wallabies playmaker.

Halfback Nick Frisby will again wear the No.10 jersey against the Hurricanes but if they lose Cooper, Queensland will be forced to recruit in order to solve what has been a problem position for much of the last two years.

While Queensland Rugby Union chief Jim Carmichael’s ongoing negotiations with the 27-year-old shape as some of the most important for the franchise in recent memory, Slipper does not anticipate the uncertainty surrounding Cooper to affect the players on Sunday.

“There’s always going to be distractions in sport,” he said.

“Whatever happens off the field, you’ve got to understand the players are here to do a job.

“I’m expecting the boys to go out there and perform at their best.”

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