Super Rugby Pacific: Hunter Paisami’s return set to boost Reds against Crusaders

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 Credit: PA Images
Credit: PA Images

Wallabies centre Hunter Paisami’s return will boost a Reds side who are focusing on causing a big upset in the inaugural Super Rugby Pacific quarter-finals.

He participated in the Reds’ training session in Christchurch on Monday ahead of their play-off encounter against the Crusaders at the Orangetheory Stadium.

Back from injury

Paisami’s return is a shot in the arm for the Brisbane-based outfit after a shoulder injury kept him on the sidelines during last Friday’s 28-15 defeat against the same opposition at the same venue.

The Reds battled from the outset of that encounter and were trailing 21-3 at half-time but improved during the second half and will be hoping to build on their performance during the latter stages of that match.

Paisami is renowned for putting in some big hits on defence and is also adept on attack, but the Crusaders are set to receive an even bigger boost with the return of All Blacks playmaker Richie Mo’unga at fly-half.

“It’s positive news with Hunter. He adds that whack with the way he defends. It can change the momentum of games,” Reds co-captain Liam Wright told Rugby Australia’s official website.

Despite being big underdogs, Wright is optimistic the Reds will take on the challenge of facing the Crusaders on their home turf and he is also confident young fly-half Lawson Creighton will build on his performance from their previous match.

“The finals are a whole new competition. We definitely got ideas about what worked and what didn’t playing against them last Friday,” he said.

“They stuck it to us in that first 40 minutes and got too much of a lead (21-3). You don’t want to be chasing the game against them.

“You want to apply pressure as well as absorb it.

“Lawson did good things. He’s got his own strengths as a No.10. He doesn’t play like James (O’Connor) and we are backing those strengths. He cut through and nearly connected with Jordie (Petaia) for a try.”

The Reds’ overall kicking game was poor last weekend. They kicked the ball 30 times in the match, often to a Crusaders attacker. Wright acknowledged that they would have to improve in that department.

“There was a bit of aimless kicking but we also know the value if we pick the right times and kick with purpose,” he added.

“Lawson picked up a good 50-22 and good chasing pressure won Jock (Campbell) a turnover on another occasion.”

Last year at Suncorp Stadium, Mo’unga delivered a superb attacking performance in which he scored three tries.

The Reds have not forgotten that performance from the All Black and know they will have to prevent him from building momentum on attack.

“A lot of the Crusaders’ structure revolves around him and we know the danger of his footwork,” said Wright.

“For us, it’s finding dominant contacts in defence, getting the forwards going forward and taking away space from him. We’re not star struck.”

READ MORE: Richie Mo’unga: All Black playmaker re-commits to the Crusaders and New Zealand Rugby

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