Browning will be Reds’ gun
Interim Queensland captain Rob Simmons is confident Curtis Browning will step up in the furnace of an interstate derby against New South Wales at Allianz Stadium for injured star Liam Gill tonight.
Gill, ruled out for four weeks due to a lower-back stress fracture, will be sorely missed, the super-competitive openside flanker and Wallabies representative poaching a Super Rugby-high 30 turnovers last season.
But second-rower Simmons believes former Australia under-20 captain Browning, who has played 20 games for the Reds mostly in the No. 6 role, is ready for the enormous round-one clash.
In a highly difficult assignment, he will be up against Waratahs and Wallabies champion openside flanker Michael Hooper.
"He (Browning) is a very good ball runner and he's pretty solid in defence as well," Simmons said.
"He's learning a lot about the breakdown and getting over the ball, and hopefully he can get a few turnovers for us."
Plenty of hype has surrounded Kurtley Beale, set to start at five-eighth for the Waratahs, with regular playmaker Bernard Foley sidelined with a shoulder injury.
Waratahs coach Daryl Gibson has plenty of faith in what Beale can do at No.10.
"My plan all along was to start Kurtley at 10 for this game," Gibson said.
"I knew Bernard was coming off (a stint in) Japan, and I didn't know what sort of condition he'd be in. With Kurtley's growth and maturity from the World Cup, his self-belief has really improved."
Gibson added star fullback Israel Folau would be fully fit from an ankle injury.
Lots of eyes will also be on Reds fullback Karmichael Hunt, who will start in the No.15 jersey ahead of Japanese superstar Ayumu Goromaru.
Simmons said Hunt's solid form and familiarity with backline combinations during Brisbane City's NRC title win last year were crucial, and a big reason why he would start ahead of Goromaru.
As well as Hunt, Brisbane City's championship-winning backline included Samu Kerevi, Henry Taefu, Jake McIntyre, and Nick Frisby, who all will start for the Reds tonight.
"The vital part is to have a settled backline," Simmons said.
But when razor-sharp goal-kicker Goromaru does come on, with Hunt likely to shift to the centres, he is expected to bring a new dimension to the Reds' attack.
"He (Goromaru) is going to be more valuable than just his boot," Simmons said. "He'll bring a big impact when he gets off the bench."