'Reds at risk from raiders'
IT IS the warning that should come as no surprise to Queensland Reds fans.
Reds hooker James Hanson, at Noosa yesterday for a skills session with juniors, admitted the reigning Super Rugby champion would find it difficult to keep the current squad together as rival teams swoop.
Hanson, a reported target of the Western Force, said it was inevitable the Brisbane-based team would face salary cap pressure following its triumph last year.
The Force, in particular, has been aggressive in its attempts to poach Reds players, with Wallabies halfback Will Genia turning down this month a big-money offer from the ambitious Western Australian franchise to stay with Queensland.
It was reported yesterday that highly rated Reds back-rower Scott Higginbotham would join the Melbourne Rebels on a lucrative three-year deal.
Hanson told the Daily that he was weighing up several options, with a preference to stay put, but said: "Obviously now that we're a championship team, everyone that's involved wants a bit more money and obviously deserves a bit more money.
"And under the current salary cap restrictions it's difficult to keep everyone with that mindset."
Hanson has been a regular starter for the improving ninth-placed Reds this season, but has been named on the bench for tomorrow's clash against bottom team the Lions at Suncorp Stadium.
Saia Fainga'a will start at hooker in a game that marks the return of Wallabies No.10 Quade Cooper from long-term injury.
Cooper was a shock selection, with Hanson saying even the players were surprised to learn he had recovered from a knee reconstruction.
The talented five-eighth was instrumental in Queensland's charge last year, and his match-winning influence has been missed.
Hanson said Cooper would have had only three training sessions with the team by game day.
"In the position he's great at controlling the game and controlling the forwards, demanding what he wants," he said.
"It will be good to have that voice again directing the players around the field."