Liam Wright thinks a lot of people have written his Queensland Reds off and history makes it easy to see why.
But, without a win in Christchurch since 1999, returning backrower Wright insists there is internal confidence ahead of what could be two consecutive trips to face the formidable Crusaders.
In a potential entree to next week’s second v seventh quarter-final, the sides will line up at Orangetheory Stadium on Friday with a revealing form line behind them.
Nine straight wins against the Reds support the Crusaders’ standing as a great Super Rugby powerhouse, while 18 consecutive losses away from home against New Zealand opposition indicate where the Reds’ room for improvement lies.
A 24-20 loss in the Reds’ last visit two years ago gives them hope, though.
“It’s pretty similar circumstances … all we did back then was show a bit of fight, put ourselves on the line for each other,” said Wright, who returns from a serious ankle injury via the bench.
“We want to take it to them; it’s a strong team, a lot of people have probably written us off.
“We haven’t been playing the way we wanted to despite getting the win (against Moana Pasifika) last weekend.
“We need to improve again to get a bit more momentum into finals and what a challenge this week.”
The Reds will be without injured Wallabies trio James O’Connor, Taniela Tupou and Hunter Paisami, while England-bound second-rower Lukhan Salakaia-Loto wasn’t selected.
Jordan Petaia will play outside centre for the first time this season, with Lawson Creighton back in the No.10 and Jock Campbell continuing his Test audition at fullback.
The Crusaders have strengthened their side with are eight changes to the starting line up, hooker Brodie McAlister and internationals George Bower, Pablo Matera, David Havili and Will Jordan all returning.