Cron wants 'must-win mindset' for crunch clash with Reds

Thu, May 23, 2024, 6:05 AM
BS
by Ben Somerford
Western Force head coach Simon Cron spoke to reporters ahead of the Round 14 away game against the Queensland Reds.

Western Force head coach Simon Cron says his team will once again take a “must-win” mindset into Saturday’s Super Rugby Pacific clash away to the Queensland Reds as they chase a finals spot.

The Force are firmly in finals calculations on the back of successive victories over the NSW Waratahs and Fijian Drua lifting the side into ninth spot on the SRP ladder.

The WA club are two points outside the finals spots with two rounds to go ahead of Saturday’s encounter at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane from 5:35pm WST, live on 9GEM and Stan Sport.

Fans may be discussing the permutations ahead of the final two rounds, with Sunday’s clash between the seventh-placed Highlanders and eighth-placed Fijian Drua likely to have major implications, but Cron said the scenario was simple for his players; it’s another must-win.

“We’ve probably been in must-win territory for the last two or three,” Cron told reporters at Perth Domestic Airport on Thursday ahead of the team’s departure.

“It’s the same mindset, the boys know it, we all know it.”

The Force beat the Reds 40-31 at HBF Park in Round 5, along with 21-19 in a pre-season trial game at Ballymore in Brisbane in February.

But Cron said that counted for nothing against the fifth-placed Reds, who are looking to finish as high as possible on the ladder.

“No, all irrelevant,” Cron said. “This week is a new game. Boys have got to get their heads in the fight and go to war.

“They’re a good side. They’ve had some good results this year. They’ll come out firing, as will we.

“They’ve got a good side there, Liam Wright is outstanding. They’ve got some good boys, like Fraser McReight.

“Our boys go pretty good too, you’ve got Carlo (Tizzano), you’ve got Reed Prinsep who is cement and Will Harris. We’ve got some good boys, it’ll be good competition.”

The aforementioned Wright has won the most lineouts of any player this season with 61 with two steals, while Reds teammate Ryan Smith has the third most, 50 with five steals.

The Force will blood 20-year-old winger Ronan Leahy for his Super Rugby debut, having recently been named in the Under-20 Rugby Championship Team of the Tournament.

“He had a big pre-season with us,” Cron said. “He played in the Cheetahs series, played really well. He’s a strong kid. He’s got a lot of upside. We see he has a massive future for the club. We’re just looking forward to seeing him play.

“He’s just come out of Australia U20s. Initially we were thinking like we might play him during that time. We felt like the Aus U20s program was really important and him putting on that Australia jersey was important, so we left him alone. Now he’s back it’s a great opportunity.

“We just think he’s ready that’s why we’re starting him.”

Force and Wallabies utility back Kurtley Beale was part of the playing group on Thursday’s plane, after his wife Maddi gave birth to their second child on Wednesday.

“It’s awesome, he’s pretty excited,” Cron said about Beale. “Obviously, a big day yesterday for him. Exciting for the team this morning in the team meeting. He’s laser focused.”

Winger-turned-midfielder Bayley Kuenzle is one who has shot into Wallabies conversations following a breakout 2024 campaign, that has included five tries.

The 26-year-old former Australia under-age representative has scored a tr in each of his last two SRP matches, while he scored a double against the Reds last time they met.

“I think BK has always been talented, skilled and fast,” Cron said. “The big thing for him is he had some injuries early on last year and a bit towards the back-end of last year.

“He’s been injury-free and it’s allowing him to play more minutes and get more confident. We’re loving having him out there.”

The WA club will host the ACT Brumbies on Saturday 1 June in the final round, with tickets available via Ticketmaster, along with the Force’s Flexi Membership, with four tickets to the Round 15 game for only $75.

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