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Friday, January 20, 2006

 

Super 14: McMeniman in surprise position change.

The Queensland based Reds have pulled a surprising positional switch for their fixture against the Blues tomorrow night.

The Sydney Morning Herald provide further details.

Rising Wallabies lock Hugh McMeniman is keen to solve Australia's perennial back-row problem after being handed Queensland's No.6 jersey for the Super 14.

The Reds have shown their 2006 hand by selecting McMeniman at blind-side flanker to play the Auckland-based Blues tonight at Ballymore.

Coach Jeff Miller yesterday revealed the talented 22-year-old's Super 14 future rested in the back-row as Queensland looked for extra height and expertise in the lineout.

McMeniman has embraced the challenge and conceded it was his preference to play as a dynamic back-rower with more freedom to roam the field and carry the ball.

The move comes as a minor surprise as McMeniman was Queensland's bright light in an otherwise gloomy 2005 when he starred at lock to finish the year in the Wallabies second-row.

But his mobility and an eye-catching display in his one match at No.6 last year, in a shock move against NSW, has the Reds convinced he can make the switch work for him, the Reds and Australia.

The Wallabies have struggled to settle on a blind-side flanker since ball scavengers Phil Waugh and George Smith started playing together in the back-row in 2003.

Rocky Elsom, Smith and John Roe all shared time there in 2005 but the Test lineout struggled to win its own ball without a quality third jumper.

Roe deserved to finish in the role thanks to his impressive form in November's European tour but his height (188cm) will forever count against him with Waugh and Smith, now converted to No.8, together.

McMeniman, determined to be key ball-carrier at 113kg and 200cm, is licking his lips at the chance to get more involved in defence and attack.

"I'm definitely up for it," he said.

"I'm looking forward to having a go at it and hopefully I can play the position through this year."

Miller, for one, strongly believes McMeniman can go all the way with the positional switch.

"He's a big man, he's athletic, he gives us size in the back-row and is another line-out jumper," he said.

Skipper Roe, troubled by a foot injury, has been named to make a surprise 20-minute appearance after young No.8 Ben Mowen broke his jaw in an internal scrimmage on Wednesday night.

Mowen's injury has seen Mitchell Chapman, in a battle with Sydney recruit Cam Treloar to partner Mark Connors in the second-row, moved to No.8 for the trial against an inexperienced Blues outfit.

Miller is experimenting with his backline, naming Tim Atkinson on the wing and Julian Huxley at outside centre, due to the loss of outside backs Ben Tune (knee) and Henari Veratau (hamstring).

Elton Flatley will play his first match in seven months, sharing time at five-eighth with former Brisbane Broncos young gun Berrick Barnes, who will start.

The two Reds are on a collision course for the No.10 jersey, with Miller earmarking Lloyd Johansson at inside centre.

AAP
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