Karmichael Hunt has impressed during the pre-season.
Karmichael Hunt has impressed during the pre-season. DAVE HUNT

Tim Horan: Reds must finish top in Australia

RUGBY UNION: Reds legend Tim Horan says his old team's Super Rugby season will be a failure if they do not lay waste to the Waratahs and finish top of the Australian conference.

But Horan says he sees enough improvement in Karmichael Hunt in rugby union to believe the ex Bronco will free up the attacking game of Reds cornerstone Quade Cooper in the season starting on Friday night with a home game against the Sharks.

Cooper, Wallabies captain Stephen Moore, 36-year-old flanker George Smith and Scott Higginbotham give the renovated 2017 Reds the tightest of windows in which to make an impact, Horan believes.

"It's got to be this year - because there are some older, experienced players, you are going to get only probably two seasons out of this squad,'' former Test centre Horan said.

"Success is probably winning four of the first six games and then you set yourself up. You have to win your conference. That's success.

"If you don't win your conference, that's failure - I bet (Reds coach) Nick Stiles doesn't know how to spell rebuilding.''


Australian rugby union player Stephen Moore takes part in a training session in Sydney on Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2016. The Wallabies will play the New Zealand All Blacks  in the 3rd Bledisloe Cup Test in Auckland on October 22nd. (AAP Image/Paul Miller) NO ARCHIVING
Stephen Moore will be a huge addition to the Reds line-up. PAUL MILLER

On Monday some of the Queensland players mixed with Vintage Reds at the launch of the QRU's "cap project'' to award a number to each player to have represented the state in 135 years of rugby.

Horan, Reds player No. 1007 joined Stan Pilecki (843), Tony Shaw (874), Andrew Slack (897) and Nathan Sharpe (1096) as part of an exercise that Stiles (1093) believes will link more effectively the present team to the traditions of past champions.

"Being able to reconnect with the players who might not have been recognised so much in the past is a great thing,'' said cap No. 1202 Cooper, who said he was excited about his imminent Super Rugby return.

"The guys here now have a bit more understanding of what went into this jersey. To have a guy like Timmy Horan around the club is great for us. He was a pretty special player, played with a lot of flair and was a player I admired.''


Australia's Tim Horan, left, being tackled by Wales's Scott Gibbs as he receives the ball,during his country game against Wales in Millennium stadium, Cardiff, Wales , during their Rugby World Cup quarter-final match  Saturday October  23, 1999.(AP Photo/Max Nash)
Tim Horan in action for the Wallabies in 1999. MAX NASH

Cooper said he was struck by how much more rugby knowledge Hunt has compared with his 2015 season with the Reds.

"When I was first here, I was telling him where to stand, where to run,'' Cooper said. "He's in spots where you want him and he's one of the leaders.''

Stiles said winger Izaia Perese was in the mix to make a Super Rugby debut when the Reds team to play the Sharks is named tomorrow.

But Chris Kuridrani played out of his skin in Queensland's 32-12 pre-season win over the Rebels last Tuesday to complicate the selection issue.

"Chris has worked out he's pretty similar to Eto (Nabuli). He must have thought he was five foot-nothing (150cm) and 30 kilos,'' Cooper said.

"I'm looking forward to seeing what he produces as well.''