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Reds coach Kiss issues plea to RA regarding Petaia

NEWS: Reds coach Les Kiss has called for greater protection off the ball for Super Rugby Pacific’s playmakers.

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Kiss is confident fullback Jordan Petaia won’t be lost to the NRL. Two-time World Cup centre Petaia, who is likely to return from a concussion off the bench to face the Rebels on Friday, is off contract and fielding interest from the rival code that’s already swooped on Sydney Roosters-bound Wallabies wing Mark Nawaqanitawase.

Triple code-hopper turned rugby league coach Karmichael Hunt is adamant 23-year-old Petaia would flourish if he made the rare move, telling AAP he would “create havoc” for NRL defences.

St George Illawarra coach Shane Flanagan has already expressed his interest.

Kiss, himself a former Queensland rugby league wing, said Rugby Australia, now headed by newly installed high performance director Peter Horne, and the Reds needed to prioritise his retention.

“I think it’s front and centre,” he said.

‘”When I talk about succession, I always put retention first and recruitment second.

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“Someone like Jordy’s important with who you want to retain. Keeping good rugby players is important in the game.

“There’s massive upside in Jordy. I know he can play 15, 13, wing. But increasing other skill sets are the things that excite him.

“Everything should be done in a sustainable way, but someone like Jordy is important to keep here.

“He is the type of player fans can connect with. He’s got something special. He’s super competitive, strong, big, powerful.”

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He said next year’s British and Irish Lions tour would also be a large carrot.

“We feel pretty comfortable with what we’re offering here,” he said.

Meanwhile, Kiss is tossing up starting flyhalf Tom Lynagh from the bench and promoting 19-year-old whiz Harry McLaughlin-Phillips to start in Melbourne.

Kiss said Lynagh was healthy but his injury-hit pre-season meant he was still being managed back to full fitness.

Lynagh copped a barrage of hits in the Reds’ gutsy 25-19 win that moved them to 2-1, including a golden-point loss to the unbeaten Hurricanes.

One in particular from Samipeni Finau after Lynagh had offloaded drew the wrath of observers but escaped with only a penalty.

Finau similarly levelled Brumbies playmaker Noah Lolesio last week in an incident that went unpunished.

“If that’s becoming a trend we’ve got to stamp on straight away, because what you permit you promote,” Kiss said.

“Good young players, whatever club they’re in, have to be protected. I’m not talking about putting them in cotton wool.

“They’re tough players, but they don’t deserve anything that’s late and can create a whiplash moment that could hurt you.

“We’ve got to protect them. I’m big on that and it’s not right.”

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