Reds miss Cooper's edge

It was a reality that your best players were not always available and quality players, like Cooper, were missed.

"From a personal point of view one of Quade's greatest strengths is communication and we do play an ad hoc game, we don't have a super-structured game, we play on the run and Quade's one of the best facilitators I've ever come across at facilitating the game on the run.

"So we miss him in that context more than any of his passing, kicking, anything like that. It;s actually it's his communication we miss the most," he said.

McKenzie said he knew exactly what Blues coach Pat Lam was going through with a side unable to pick up a second win 10 rounds into the competition. He had been through the same thing with the Waratahs in 2007.

"I think the quality of the squad he has got with persistence he will get there. It's hard and there's a lot of pressure goes with it. I've been there and we're not much better off [this season'. We're incumbent champions and we're four and four.

"We're not happy with where we are either so a couple of desperate teams hopefully makes for a good game," he said.

Troubled as the Blues might be they could not be discounted, he added. They had strong players who could break tackles and the Reds would have to control the potential excitement in the Blues team.

"They can move the ball and they've got a lot of X factor players there," he said.

Like the Reds, the Blues had been in games where they had the majority of possession but had not been able to claim wins and it was about getting balance in the game, something the Crusaders were able to demonstrate consistently.

The Reds had been battling with their own balance, with six different first five-eighths and six different goal-kickers during the competition.

Piri Weepu might have had his problems gaining a starting place for the Blues but he was starting this week and McKenzie said he would be given due respect because, like many players who had a long build-up to the World Cup he was taking his time to come back and he could play one of the sorts of commanding games he played in the World Cup at any time.

And the Reds would be conscious of that in their preparations for Friday's contest.