Livescore Wednesday, April 24
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Josh Flook has tipped the “18-year-old” James O’Connor to resurface if he returns to the centres for the Queensland Reds’ Super Rugby Pacific quarter-final.

And there could be more midfield positional shuffling as coach Brad Thorn plots another backs-to-the wall New Zealand upset in potentially his last game as coach.

No.12 Hunter Paisami didn’t train on Wednesday after battling knee soreness in his return to the starting side from a long-term injury in last week’s humbling loss to the Fijian Drua.

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O’Connor wore the No.10 in that game but would be a natural selection at inside centre should Test weapon Paisami not travel to Hamilton to face the table-topping Chiefs on Saturday.

That would allow Tom Lynagh to wear the No.10 again in the sudden-death clash, while winger Filipo Daugunu is being considered at No.13 in a wildcard move that would push the versatile Flook onto the flank.

Daugunu was terrific in the unfamiliar position when the Reds upset the Chiefs in New Plymouth last month, the only loss the Chiefs have suffered this season and first Reds win in the country for 10 years.

Flook said the Reds needed O’Connor to be at his best for the side to become the first Australian team to win a Super Rugby play-off game in New Zealand.

The 32-year-old debuted for Australia on the wing as an 18-year-old but has found a home in the Reds’ spine since returning from Europe in 2019.

He is off contract but AAP understands the Reds are close to finalising a deal to keep him at Ballymore next season.

“He’s starting to find his feet again, playing with that bit of confidence as he did when he had that really good season at No.10,” Flook said on Wednesday.

“Hopefully he’s got that back because we really need him this weekend.

“At 12 he’s a bit more of a ball-runner, can bring his footwork and show he’s still got it from back when he was an 18-year-old kid.

“At 10 he’s got to take that leadership role just a tad bit more and direct the team … the 12 position just gives them a little bit more freedom.”

Thorn won’t coach the Reds next year and will use the off-season to consider his next move after a remarkable stint as professional player and mentor in both rugby codes stretching back to 1994 with the Brisbane Broncos.

“He’s not a selfish person, he’s making it all about us,” Flook said.

“But I know all of us have, in the back of our mind, that we’re playing for him.

“We’re just playing for pride at the moment, were embarrassed last week and we’ve taken that personally.”



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