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Super Rugby
Reds want to send McKenzie out a winner
July 16, 2013
Ewen McKenzie smiles after steering Queensland to victory, Reds v Chiefs, Super Rugby, Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane, May 13, 2012
Queensland is keen to send Ewen McKenzie out a winner in his final season at the helm of the Reds © Getty Images
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Three key re-signings may be a show of faith in Queensland head coach Richard Graham but the departing Ewen McKenzie will be the Reds' Super Rugby finals inspiration.

Wallabies Liam Gill, James Slipper and Rob Simmons all re-signed for two more years in a shot in the arm for Queensland ahead of Saturday's qualifying final clash with the Crusaders in Christchurch.

It was also a boost for Graham who will take over the reins when Reds coaching director Ewen McKenzie becomes Wallabies mentor at the end of the Super Rugby finals campaign.

While he welcomed Graham's reign, Slipper said the Reds were determined to send McKenzie out a winner.

"It's a huge focus," 37-Test prop Slipper said. "Without a doubt we wouldn't be where we are now unless Link (McKenzie) came in. To repay him with a final and hopefully a championship would be something remarkable and something we are striving for."

Gill added: "That (sending out McKenzie a winner) is a big stepping point that we can use. We love playing for him."

Graham said he had built a strong rapport with players since arriving at the club this year but did not want to take credit for the re-signings.

"The players have got to know me and I have got to know the players - I think that has helped," Graham said. "(But) it's a show of faith in the program and organisation. They had interest from everywhere but I think their heart is here, they've been successful here and they would like that to continue."

Queensland this weekend face one of Super Rugby's most daunting assignments - seven-time champions Crusaders at home. The Reds have not won in Christchurch since 1999. However, Queensland have won their previous three meetings in Brisbane including the 2011 final.

"They have a fantastic record at home but certainly the Reds' record over the last four years have been very good against them, probably the best of anyone in the competition," Graham said. "So we go over there with a lot of confidence on the back of beating all the other New Zealand teams this season."

Reminded of their win-less away run since 1999, Graham said: "Records are meant to be broken. If we look back at history we have beaten them in the final, we have beaten them three times I think prior to that, and the boys know how to go to New Zealand and win."

With leaders James Horwill and Will Genia back from injury, Gill said Queensland would be out to prove a point against a Crusaders side further boosted by the season return of All Blacks captain Richie McCaw.

"We really want to showcase that we are a force to be reckoned with coming into the finals and there is no better way of doing it than coming up against arguably one of the best franchises in the finals," Graham said.

© AAP
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