‘Ready to put his hand up’: ‘Lion’ Wilson stars in big Reds win over Force as Tupou-less pack stands up


Queensland Reds No.8 Harry Wilson made a big statement to new Wallabies coach Eddie Jones, scoring twice in his side’s impressive 45-10 pre-season win over the Western Force.

While Reds coach Brad Thorn threw out some bait to the Waratahs ahead of their trial next week, which is expected to be stacked with internationals across both sides.

Wilson was out of favour with Dave Rennie but took a huge step in his battle to get out of the international wilderness on Saturday.

He scored in each of the first two-thirds in a game split into three 30 minutes because of Perth’s mini heatwave.

“He’s just ready to put his hand up,” Australian and Queensland teammate Fraser McReight said of Wilson.

“He’s had a really good pre-season trying to work his way back into the fold.

“He knows the best way to do that is by playing his part out here.

“You saw the carry he does. He’s got the heart of a lion. Pretty glad he’s in our side.”

The result also threw out a warning to the Reds’ Super Rugby rivals in the six-try spree at UWA Sports Park.

Harry McLaughlin-Phillips also grabbed a double with Ryan Smith and Kalani Thomas each adding one to the Reds’ score.

The Force’s five-pointers came from winger Zack Kibirige who signed this season from English club Wasps and Campbell Parata.

Both sides were littered with fresh faces – new Force coach Simon Cron starting with seven while 10 of Thorn’s 30-man squad had not played Super Rugby.

Reds coach Brad Thorn

Brad Thorn’s Reds started 2023 with a big win over the Western Force in Perth. Photo: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

The Force started with an all-international front row, Wallabies Tom Robertson, new hooker Folau Faanga’a and Argentinian Santiago Medrano.

Behind them, experienced Wallabies lock Izack Rodda was back after a lengthy spell with a foot injury.

But in a good sign for the Taniela Tupou-less Reds, Thorn’s side handled everything thrown at them by the Force.

“We got a hit out,” a circumspect Thorn said.

“You don’t get too excited around trial games. It’s a trial game. Guys are coming off and on.

“We’re working on our game.”

Thorn also threw out a veiled crack at the Waratahs ahead of their pre-season clash on Saturday.

“They are the team everyone’s talking about in Australian rugby,” he said.

“They’ve got a lot of, I guess, strength.

“They’ve brought new players in. They are going to be a good challenge for us.”

Simon Cron

Simon Cron says the Western Force need to learn how to “build pressure”. Photo: Kenta Harada/Getty Images

Force coach Cron meanwhile lamented his side’s inability to assert any pressure.

“We didn’t get past one or two phases. We’d get stripped, drop it, or try to throw a miracle pass,” Cron said.

“As a team we’ve got to learn what it looks like to build pressure.

“To build pressure you’ve got to make them tackle you and to make them tackle you, you’ve got to hold the ball.

“We had a tendency to not look after the ball and throw it away. Patience is critical and we lacked that.

“We go back and look at the critical few things. Why we didn’t build pressure through phase play and why we were slow in our transition defence.”

The Force had the better of the opening exchanges but it was the visitors who took the lead from a midfield turnover, breaking through the centre for Wilson to score, converted by Isaac Henry.

They pulled their way into the game, opting to increase their lead with a Henry penalty.

The Force hit back as the first third came to a close, a lovely handling move and chip and chase by Kibirige to the delight of fans who braved the steamy conditions but it was the Reds who continued their scoring spree with just one more from the home side.

AAP with staff writers

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