RUGBY UNION: The exit of giant Will Skelton to English club Saracens will leave a 140kg hole that rising Reds prospects Lukhan Tui and Izack Rodda will more than fill.
Queensland coach Nick Stiles predicted that his 20-year-old locks would both have a bigger impact as Wallabies in the long-term.
Just how ready the Reds duo are to deliver in the short-term will be measured in New Plymouth on Saturday night when the world's top lock Brodie Retallick is in a rival Chiefs jersey.
World Cup-winner Retallick, 25, is the multi-skilled standard for all locks as a 60-Test All Black.
He has grunt in the tight and the class in general play to put on a spin move off-load to set up a try to kill off the Melbourne Rebels in the final 10 minutes as he did in March.
Retallick made his Test debut in 2012, just a week after celebrating his 21st birthday, which clearly paints starter Tui and reserve Rodda at the beginning of their own journeys.
Tui's three first-half gallops against the Waratahs a week ago were impressive but he must back it up plus not run as upright as an easy target when he tires over the final 30 minutes.
"I made the play for Lukhan when I first spotted this raw body from Sydney at the under-20s trials (in 2015)," Stiles said.
"The fitness was down so the ball carries didn't happen that often but you could see he wasn't just a big, powerful body like Skelton but an athletic footballer.
"I think Lukhan and Izack will not only be replacing but end up better products than your Dean Mumms and Will Skeltons.
"There is an exciting crop of young locks coming through in Australia when you think Adam Coleman and Rory Arnold are Wallabies already."
When the Reds arrived flat to training on Monday after the numbing 29-26 loss to the Waratahs, Stiles freshened spirits by taking the squad golfing at the Victoria Park Driving Range.
"Lukhan took five air swings on one shot so it was a bit unnatural, like watching Wendell (Sailor) swimming in the old days when he almost needed floaties," Stiles said.
"To be honest, the hurt was like a deep cut after throwing so much into the NSW game and the boys were flat mentally before that pick-me-up to lighten the load."
It was good to see Reds players hurting that much because it showed how much they cared and still do about shaking some wins from their final six games.
Flyhalf Quade Cooper's foot niggle has also receded which is some explanation to his clearing kicks being of reduced power against the Waratahs.
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