George Smith has thrown his support behind Hamish Stewart as the rising Reds flyhalf finally gets his chance to shine.
Stewart shot to stardom with a string of stellar Queensland U20s, Australian U20s and Queensland Country performances last season and while he has been a regular part of the Reds 23, he has only served as Quade Cooper and Jono Lance’s deputy to date.
That all changes on Saturday with Lance ruled out of the clash with the Lions due to a head knock and the star Reds flanker backed Stewart to carry the offensive load in his first Super Rugby start.
“We have full confidence in Hamish,” Smith said.
“He’s an extraordinary player and someone that has the ability to carry that responsibility.“He’s an extremely talented player, he has an array of skills, he’s very good with his vision and he has a monstrous boot on him.
“I was very impressed with his ability to kick the ball and he’s a person who doesn’t hesitate when he gets into the contact area.
“You will see him bobbing in and out of breakdowns trying to pilfer the ball – he may not be successful at times but he’s a guy that doesn’t back off.”
Smith also had praise for fellow young gun Jordan Petaia, who made history in making his Super Rugby debut against the Brumbies three weeks ago.
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“I’ve been impressed with him from the first time he stepped on the field, in the training paddock,” Smith said of Petaia.
“He has showed me up a couple of times (laughs) – but it’s not too hard to show up a 37-year-old up.“He’s a big guy, he’s very strong and he has raw ability.
“He’s not afraid to take players on the outside and try to show them up.”
While Stewart and Petaia will be charged with adding some fresh spark to a Reds attack which has scored the least tries of all Super Rugby clubs to date, Smith said defence must be top priority.
“It’s been written that our attack hasn’t been great but everything is built on a good defence,” he said.
“You are then able to create things and put pressure on the opposition.
“In that second half we were in their territory for a fair amount of the game and we scored two tries.
“We work extremely hard during the week in regards to our defence but it can just be concentration in periods of the match.
“It’s about staying within those tackles when you are in those contact efforts.”
The Reds face the Lions at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday afternoon, kicking off at 3pm AEST, broadcast LIVE on FOX SPORTS and RUGBY.com.au radio.