Queensland Reds welcome back Horwill, Genia

JIM MORTON
Last updated 19:04 18/07/2013
Will Genia
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STALEMATE: Queensland Reds halfback Will Genia attempts to break a Brumbies tackle during their 19-19 draw at Suncorp Stadium.
Chris Feauai-Sautia
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BOOM YOUNGSTER: Chris Feauai-Sautia replaces Chris Morahan on the wing for the Reds Super Rugby playoff clash with the Crusaders.

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It's freezing, hostile territory but the Crusaders' ominous home advantage at their new AMI Stadium doesn't faze the Queensland Reds ahead of Saturday night's Super Rugby play-off.

Reds mentor Ewen McKenzie has shrugged off the Crusaders' 15 from 16 record at the renovated Christchurch venue since it was upgraded to be their home ground following the 2011 earthquake.

Only a controversial one-point upset by the Hurricanes last year has blotted the seven-time champions copybook but Queensland are taking plenty of heart from a swag of close calls this season.

The Hurricanes were unlucky to fall 25-17 just last week at AMI Stadium while only a missed Berrick Barnes penalty after fulltime denied the NSW Waratahs (23-22) before the June break.

The lowly Melbourne Rebels also threatened a massive upset in Christchurch before falling 30-26 in late April.

"It depends on how you want to look at it," McKenzie said of the Crusaders' run at tightly-enclosed 17,500-capacity venue. "You can look at their 15 from 16 record or you can look at each game this year.

"A lot of teams pushed them down there.

"We have to think of that side of it."

The Reds are without a win in Christchurch since 1999, but last year's 15-11 loss - after leading 11-9 with 12 minutes left - also gives them confidence.

"All that tells you is you have to nail the small moments," McKenzie said. "There will be one or two key moments and you have to make sure you nail them.

"One thing that we've been guilty of, if anything this year, is the amount of times we got to the tryline or over it and not getting a reward.

"I don't think we've played our best game this year and it would be a pity if we didn't get to that point."

The big guns have been rolled out by both sides for a qualifying final that is expected to be a battle of Test match proportions.

Wallabies leaders Will Genia (knee, hand) and James Horwill (calf) have both been cleared of injuries as expected by the Reds while All Blacks skipper Richie McCaw will make his Crusaders return off the bench.

With Queensland enjoying epic 17-16 and 18-13 wins over the Crusaders in their title-winning season in 2011, Horwill is braced for another huge clash.

"The games we've played against Canterbury over the last few years are some of the most intense and biggest games we've played," the Reds skipper said.

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"Both teams bring out the best in each other when we play, and I expect that again."

Genia is one of four changes in a reshuffled backline with Jono Lance finally getting his chance at inside centre following anthony Faingaa's slow recovery from a hamstring strain, and two new wingers selected.

Dom Shipperley replaces the injured Rod Davies (knee) while Luke Morahan has surprisingly been dumped to the bench and boom youngster Chris Feauai-Sautia promoted.

Reds: Ben Lucas, Dom Shipperley, Ben Tapuai, Jono Lance, Chris Feauai-Sautia, Quade Cooper, Will Genia; Jake Schatz, Liam Gill, Ed Quirk, James Horwill (capt), Rob Simmons, James Slipper, Saia Faingaa, Greg Holmes. Reserves: Albert Anae, Jono Owen, Ed O'Donoghue, Radike Samo, Beau Robinson, Nick Frisby, Luke Morahan.

Crusaders: Israel Dagg, Tom Marshall, Ryan Crotty, Tom Taylor, Zac Guildford, Dan Carter, Andy Ellis; Kieran Read (capt), Matt Todd, George Whitelock, Sam Whitelock, Luke Romano, Owen Franks, Corey Flynn, Wyatt Crockett. Reserves: Ben Funnell, Joe Moody, Luke Whitelock, Richie McCaw, Willi Heinz, Tyler Bleyendaal, Adam Whitelock. 

- AAP

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