Veteran Smith showing the way for Reds, says coach
RUGBY UNION: Queensland Reds coach Nick Stiles says the hard work of veteran Wallaby George Smith is rubbing off on the players as they get ready for the Super Rugby season opener with the Sharks at Suncorp Stadium tonight.
Smith will become the 1307th player to represent Queensland when he pulls on the No. 7 jersey against the South African franchise and Stiles said the 36-year-old had already showed what he will bring to the team for this campaign.
"He's a freak," Stiles said.
"His commitment to professionalism at his age now is probably why he's still playing and it's why whatever team he plays for becomes successful.
"It's rubbing off on this group already."
Queensland skipper James Slipper was in a bullish mood yesterday when he spoke to the media ahead of what will be a tough test for a revamped Reds side which will also include the returning Stephen Moore Quade Cooper, Scott Higginbotham.
The Reds will also include back-rower Adam Korczyk and three other highly-rated rookies who are set to be given their Reds' debuts off the bench - back Izaia Perese, prop Markus Vanzati and lock Izack Rodda.
Slipper says all he and the team wants now is to get playing.
"The talking is over, we've got to go out there and perform," he said.
"We genuinely have done the hard work.
"We've prepared as best we can and a lot of the boys are taking a lot of confidence from that.
"Overall our confidence and depth in the squad is much better than past years.
"But we've got to go out and still perform to the level that we want.
"That's coming away with the win and playing a good game in front of our fans.
Auckland-born Korczyk, 22, has been on the rise since first brought into the Brisbane City side by Stiles in the inaugural NRC in 2014.
He will start in front of Hendrik Tui and Leroy Houston and the Reds coach was delighted with his progress.
"He came into NRC year one with me and he was a skinny little kid to be honest," Stiles said of the Kiwi flanker.
"We went over and played a game in Perth, played against their full Super Rugby side effectively and his ruthlessness and ferociousness over the breakdown was just incredible.
"He has come off an ACL last year and his professionalism is right up there with David Pocock's."
Slipper said the sheer presence of Smith in the Queensland dressing room was "worth its weight in gold" and coach Nick Stiles can already see the effect the 36-year-old is having on the team's next generation.
The Durban-based Sharks have a new coach in Robert du Preez but star fullback Willie le Roux has moved to English rugby.
Flankers Keegan Daniel and Daniel du Preez are out injured.
QUEENSLAND REDS: 1. James Slipper (C), 2. Stephen Moore, 3. Sam Talakai, 4. Rob Simmons, 5. Kane Douglas, 6. Adam Korczyk, 7. George Smith, 8. Scott Higginbotham, 9. Nick Frisby, 10. Quade Cooper, 11. Eto Nabuli, 12. Duncan Paia'aua, 13. Samu Kerevi, 14. Chris Kuridrani, 15. Karmichael Hunt. RESERVES: Andrew Ready, Markus Vanzati, Sef Fa'agase, Izack Rodda, Hendrik Tui, James Tuttle, Jake McIntyre, Izaia Perese.