Reds take it seriously
PLAYMAKER Ben Lucas says Queensland is treating its exhibition match against Wellington at Stockland Sunshine Coast Stadium on Friday night as a must-win occasion.
The game is the team's only hitout in a month-long break in the Super Rugby season and Lucas, who will be named captain when the team line-up is officially announced today, wants to carry winning form into the final three rounds of the campaign.
The side is ninth on the ladder and its premiership defence hangs in the balance, but it has won its past three matches.
"It (a winning culture) is something we strive for at the Reds ... we don't go into any game looking to do just okay," Lucas said yesterday.
"We want to win and we want to keep that momentum into the rest of the season.
"We're putting the best side we can manage out there and we'll hopefully get the W against the Hurricanes."
The team sheet does not, however, include unpredictable playmaker Quade Cooper, who is yet to return to full fitness.
Reds coach Ewen McKenzie said: "In conjunction with the ARU and Wallabies, Quade is continuing a strength and rehabilitation program, which will put him in the position to play his best rugby in July and August."
Queensland's Australian representatives are not in the side either, but key players Radike Samo and Luke Morahan will play, along with ex-Sunshine Coast players Blake Enever and Matt Blain.
For Lucas, the opportunity to lead the Reds is an "honour" and the 24-year-old is looking for a big game at halfback.
"I've spent time at flyhalf in Quade's absence. When he has come back I've been at fullback, but I'm back at halfback this week, which is where I love playing," he said.
Lucas was part of the Wallabies extended 30-man squad for the winter Tests and the 178cm, 88kg linchpin was touted last week as a possible replacement for Wallabies pivot Berrick Barnes.
But Lucas was not entertaining thoughts of a possible call-up anytime soon and said there were more pressing matters.
"You're always hoping to (get selected for Australia), but you don't want to think about it too much," he said.
"We all have aspirations to make that level but I'm just focused on this week and putting on a good performance.
"Obviously, our focus is on this week and the 'Canes and winning that game.
"Stuff will flow on from there. It depends on how the Wallabies go in their game against Wales (in Melbourne on Saturday)."
QUEENSLAND: G Holmes, J Hanson, G Sheperdson, A Wallace-Harrison, B Enever, E Quirk, J Schatz, R Samo, B Lucas (c), D Murphy, S Seuli, N Gendle, R Tapuai, D Murphy, L Morahan. Interchange: M Wade, K Davis, R Smith, N Ah Wong, M Blain, L Creighton, J Rapan, S Malolua.
WELLINGTON: R Goodes, M Matu'u, M Bent, M Reddish, J Broadhurst, B Shields, J Lam, M Coman (c), C Eaton, T Pisi, A Taylor, J Hayward. A Leiua, R Buckman, W Naholo, J Marshall. Interchange: D Coles. D Hall, J Toomaga-Allen, T Moran, F Levave, J Thrush, A Savea, F Wilson, D Kirkpatrick, T Perenara.