Not since the return of Jesus Christ has a comeback been more anticipated. Hugh McMeniman will make his debut this weekend after a leave of absence from the first two games of this year’s Super 14.
This is a major boost for the Reds who have produced some creditable results on their tour of South Africa, despite playing with an under-powered forward pack against the behemoths of the Bulls and Stormers.
Although the return of Madness may herald a new found authority, he will not return at his preferred position of blind-side flanker, but in the tight five. The number six will once again be filled by Scott Higginbothan, who is clearly looking forward to having his Wests’ Bulldogs team mate packing down with him.
“(It’s) always good top have Hugh back in the side, (Having) another mongrel, another seven foot man in the team is awesome” enthused Higgs.
The fact that Madness will not be named in Higgs’ blind-side spot is a testament to the faith Coach Phil Mooney has in Higginbotham.
Although the team is not set to be named until tomorrow, it appears as though Ben Lucas will take the place of Will Genia. Genia, who struggled to make the same impact as his earlier cameos from the bench last week, will make way for the goal-kicking Lucas after some wayward goal kicking against the Stormers could well have cost the Reds the match.
The Reds’ focus this week must be keeping things on an even keel after the half-time break. In both games on tour, the opposition were allowed relatively soft tries which effectively put the game beyond salvation for the Reds.
Speaking at the naming of new Reds’ sponsor, Mirtan Captial, interim captain Berrick Barnes warned.
“We’ve had teams kill us after half-time, so it is an area where we will focus on this week. We’ve showed that we can attack and be one the best teams in terms of that in the competition, but the key is putting points on in those key parts of the game before and after half time.”
The return of McMeniman isn’t the only positive news from Ballymore this week. New recruit Ezra Taylor, will also return the fray after foot surgery in the Qld 2nd XV’s match against a Warartahs 2nd XV- the curtain raiser to the Reds v Cheetahs main game.