Reds young gun to hold centre stage
February 23, 2013
Greg Growden and Russell Barwick preview this weekend's Super Rugby and Six Nations matches.%]
Reds coach Ewen McKenzie believes teenage giant Chris Feauai-Sautia is more than ready for the biggest test of his young career in Saturday's interstate grudge match against the Waratahs at Suncorp Stadium.
With Wallabies centre Anthony Faingaa still sidelined with a hand injury, the 19-year Australian schoolboys sensation is a surprise inclusion in the Reds line-up at outside centre replacing Aidan Toua.
"I don't get the impression he's overawed by much so I think he'll look forward to the opportunity," McKenzie said. "He's done pretty well in short cameos and we expect to see more and more as he gets more experience and just gets used to playing at this level.
"It is a step up from schoolboy footy but take (the example of) Liam Gill, we were very measured in how we introduced him, Chris will be no different." McKenzie added. "He's not an over-confident player but he certainly doesn't lack confidence in his ability, so hopefully we'll see that on Saturday."
Tipping the scales at around 100kg and possessing thighs the size of a small suburb, the hard-running 19-year-old has already drawn comparisons with All Blacks legend Jonah Lomu.
"He's pretty good at most parts of the game - attack, defence, high ball - he's a big unit, very physical, and skilful too," McKenzie said of the four-game rookie. "He runs very good lines too so I think for someone like Quade (Cooper), when you two guys with good instinct (playing together), they just turn up in the right spot and the ball arrives, so I think Quade will look forward to giving him the ball."
But Feauai-Sautia won't have things all his own way against Wallabies veteran Adam Ashley-Cooper. Although he has a significant edge in experience, the veteran of 77 Tests and 94 Super Rugby caps won't be taking his teenage opponent lightly this weekend.
"I know over the last couple of years there's been a bit of a buzz about him up there, he's a young bloke who's got a lot of skill and a lot of talent," Ashley-Cooper said. "He's come through the 21's system and has a lot of potential to achieve great things."
"He's a kid that certainly you need to be aware of. He's got great feet, good skills, a good ball runner, so I guess defensively it certainly won't be a focus for myself, it'll be a focus for our backline that we don't give that kid too much space because he's dangerous."
Meanwhile, Ashley-Cooper vowed to cement the number 13 jumper this season after wearing the 'utility tag' his whole career.
"I've always been keen just to nail the one and I think of all years this is the year to really settle down in one position and nail 13," Ashley-Cooper said.
Concussion, relegation and the mother of all surprises - it's the Monday Maul.