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Reds ready for Kiwi Super Rugby challenge

The Queensland Reds have switched gears to prepare for their Super Round clash with the Hurricanes in Melbourne this weekend, determined to learn from the mistakes of last season.

The entire Super Rugby round will be played at AAMI Park with doubles headers starting Friday night with the NSW Waratahs tackling the Chiefs before the Western Force face Moana Pasifika.

The Reds and Hurricanes meet on Saturday night.

Centre Hamish Stewart said after only playing Australian teams, for seven wins and one loss, the Reds were ready for the next challenge that facing a Kiwi team would bring.

“We’re getting into the Kiwis this week, which we’ve been excited about all year,” Stewart said on Tuesday.

“It’s a different brand of rugby, we’re going to be playing a lot more upbeat, more tempo, and we’ve got to be on our toes.

“We’ve been training that this week and we’re looking forward to it.”

Stewart said code-hopping winger Suliasi Vunivalu had come through unscathed in his first Super Rugby Pacific game of the season, after hamstring surgery, and would be good to go in Melbourne, where he made his name in the NRL for the Storm.

He said the Reds would look to use Vunivalu’s aerial skills, as well as power running, against the Hurricanes.

“He’s a quality player and he’s a freak so it was good to have him back,” Stewart said.

“He’s an elite player in the air and we’ll look to utilise that against the Kiwis.

“We’re looking forward to exposing him against some of the smaller blokes and let him run over a few people so we’re excited for him.”

Last year Queensland, fresh off celebrations after their Super Rugby AU title, only managed one win from five games in the trans-Tasman competition.

Reds coach Brad Thorn conceded it was a huge emotional let-down after their breakthrough title victory but this year they were much better prepared.

“Last year we achieved something as a club, winning the AU competition in front of 42,000, and it was all out for that,” Thorn said.

“It’s was a journey for a lot of the lads and and then emotionally we had the front up in a six-day turnaround over in Dunedin, and then the Crusaders who were on fire.

“This year we were preparing for a comp where we’d play both New Zealand and Australian sides, then with COVID we realised we were going to play Australian sides first.

“But we’re not wrapped up in the Australian side … we know that there’s some really tough games in front of us but we want to compete to win games.”

Meanwhile, Rugby Australia announced they and the Brumbies had extended deals with Lonergan brothers, Ryan and Lachlan, until the end of 2025.

The Brumbies face the Highlanders on Sunday afternoon before the Melbourne Rebels close Super Round against the Crusaders.

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