Liam Wright
Queensland co-captain Lian Wright says goatee week brings the Super Rugby Pacific team closer. Image by HANDOUT/QRU
  • rugby union

Wright’s Reds primed for hairy Pasifika task abroad

Murray Wenzel April 11, 2024

There were all the usual things to work on when the Queensland Reds enjoyed a bye, and then there were their goatees.

Judging by the finished product, Moana Pasifika have their hands full if the Reds’ on-field tweaks match their facial hair feats.

An initiative of Reds co-captain Liam Wright, “Goatee Week” has become an annual staple at Ballymore.

The in-form flanker says it’s a novel way to build team unity while also ticking a personal grooming box.

“Once a year, coinciding with me wanting to get rid of my beard, we do a goatee week,” he said ahead of Friday’s Super Rugby Pacific clash at Semenoff Stadium, in New Zealand’s northernmost city of Whangarei.

“So it’s this week. Zane’s (Nonggorr) won by a country a mile, but a lot of guys got around it, and some staff too.

“It’s a fun week and a way to keep building on that culture, connection and tightness in the group.”

The Reds lost two straight games entering the bye, undoing the terrific start under new coach Les Kiss to sit 3-3.

Outplayed by the Western Force in Perth, the Reds then coughed up a late lead in a tight one-point loss to the ACT Brumbies at Suncorp Stadium.

Their breakdown dominance was nullified by Australia’s top side in Brisbane and Wright said their goal was to find solutions faster ahead of a potential finals run.

“It’s about playing to whatever’s working for us on that day,” he said. 

“If our maul doesn’t work, find a way to go somewhere else.

“It’s never fun going into a bye after two losses; you want to dwell on some good things.

“But we did find the things we’ve created so far and made a point that we’ve only been under these coaches for a short time, so it’ll build.

“This game’s an important one to get on track and play that consistent football with a less error rate than in the last few weeks.”

Harry McLaughlin-Phillips returns in the No.10 as part of Kiss’s playmaker rotation, Tom Lynagh rested and Lawson Creighton on the bench as the back-up five-eighth.

Wallabies winger Suliasi Vunivalu comes into the starting side while former All Blacks prop Alex Hodgman and experienced lock Angus Blyth both make returns on the bench.

“He’s not afraid to pull the trigger,” Wright said of McLaughlin-Phillips. 

“That back three we’ve got (Vunivalu, Jock Campbell and Jordan Petaia), it’s exciting for him to get the ball where he needs to go and he’ll front up.”

Pasifika are 2-5 this year under new coach, former All Blacks great Tana Umaga.