Big test out west for the Reds
RUGBY UNION: The ugly numbers "0-6" should be tattooed in the mind of every Reds player until they snap their damning record against Australian opponents.
If coach Nick Stiles has his way, the drought-breaker will arrive as swiftly as Thursday night in Perth when the Western Force will test how real this Reds revival is.
There were many measures of how poorly the Reds performed last year and losing all six derbies against Aussie rivals was just about the worst.
Stumbling to a 22-6 loss to the Force in the corresponding match last year even torpedoed Richard Graham's role as coach.
"The simple maths (of 0-6) says you are not going to play finals," Stiles said.
"We have to show more pride in our derby games because there were some we didn't fire a shot in last year.
"Games like this one in Perth are massive double-points games because if you win your conference, you are in the finals."
The Force scrum shunted the Waratahs five metres to set up their single Jono Lance try in a competitive 19-13 loss to NSW last Saturday night in rainy Sydney.
Stiles is more than happy to take on the Force at one of their strengths because strong scrums were the platform for two of the Reds' own tries when they beat the Sharks 28-26 last Friday.
"The Force have definitely improved their scrum but we won't be shying away ... we'll see how they handle it on Thursday," Stiles said.
A corked leg for Wallaby lock Rob Simmons is the only minor issue for the Reds because Quade Cooper being replaced with a slight knee twist was only precautionary.
Flyhalf Cooper is excited to keep tuning his game for Perth after playing his first Super Rugby match since June 2015.
"It felt good being back on the field with my @redsrugby brothers ... bit rusty and two left feet with goalkicking but the W feels good," Cooper wrote on social media.
Young 129kg prop Taniela "Tongan Thor" Tupou is certain to be added to the bench now he has served his two-week ban for headbutting.
Tupou is grateful to be match fit after playing 40 minutes for Brothers in their 27-5 loss to Sydney club Norths last Saturday in the Australian Club Championship.
Bench lock Izack Rodda made an encouraging Reds debut with a key lineout steal in his 19-minute cameo.