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Reds rookie's long wait ends with McCaw

Friday, May 09, 2014

Update: 7:02PM Australian under-20 skipper Curtis Browning has waited patiently to mix it with Super Rugby's big boys - three seasons with the Queensland Reds without a run-on start.

But his patience will pay off on Sunday when he gets "down and dirty" with the biggest name there is - All Blacks skipper Richie McCaw.

A schoolboy prodigy and grandson of former Wallaby Dick Marks, Browning makes his starting debut opposing McCaw in a torrid back-row battle at Suncorp Stadium.

Far from being daunted, the 20-year-old is not only relishing the baptism of fire but also ruing that Crusaders captain and IRB world player of 2013, Kieran Read, won't also be there to increase the challenge.

"You want to test yourself against the best and Richie is one of them but it would have been good to have Read out there as well," Browning said.

Playing at virtually the same weight (109kg) as McCaw and Read, the 190cm flanker finally gets his run-on chance after five caps off the bench and an injury to blindside Ed Quirk.

Browning had three years in the Australian schoolboys side and then went on to play two seasons with the Australian under-20s, winning their player of the year award twice and leading them last year.

Despite the 13th-placed Reds' fall from grace this year, the young gun denied he'd been frustrated in failing to get the swift call-up many expected.

Even this week it was a tight call with coach Richard Graham thinking long and hard about moving Wallabies lock Rob Simmons to the back row to beef up his pack.

But Browning was rewarded for his aggression at the tackle and strong ball-running off the bench in the 35-21 loss to the Hurricanes.

"All forwards love the physicality, and I'm certainly no different there," he said.

"I love getting down and dirty and getting through the work."

The back-rower said McCaw's best asset was his ability to pick and choose when to pilfer at the breakdown.

"I feel he really nails it," Browning said. "He knows when to have a dig and when not to."

McCaw also felt he nailed it in the final minute of the corresponding match at Suncorp in 2011 - but referee Stu Dickinson disagreed back then, allowing Quade Cooper to kick the Reds to an epic 17-16 win.

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