After notching up an important away against the Stormers in South Africa three weeks ago, NSW Waratahs coach Michael Cheika is now looking to add a second, today naming an unchanged starting XV for the ANZAC Day clash with the Blues in Auckland.
Although the Tahs won the last competitive encounter between the sides (as well as February’s pre-season trial), it’s five years since their last away win, a narrow 27-22 Phil Waugh-led victory at Eden Park back in March 2009. The only other two contests to be played in Auckland since then both came in 2011, when the Blues recorded back to back wins, with the latter (a 26-13 Super Rugby qualifying final result) ending the Tahs’ finals hopes.
This Friday’s crucial ANZAC Day encounter will see the Waratahs field an all-Wallaby front row, with Benn Robinson at loosehead, Sekope Kepu at tighthead and Tatafu Polota Nau at hooker.
Playing his best football of the season, Will Skelton retains his position at lock alongside the resilient Kane Douglas, who’ll earn his 66th NSW cap on Friday afternoon (kick off 3.35pm EST).
Crowd favourite Jacques Potgieter will start at as blindside flanker. On the openside is last week’s NSW Man of the Match, Michael Hooper, and captain Dave Dennis is at the back of the pack at No. 8.
Starting in every game so far of the season are halves Nick Phipps and Bernard Foley, with the latter needing just 17 points to become the Tahs’ eighth most prolific Super Rugby points-scorer. Recovering from an injured ankle, Kurtley Beale will start at inside centre with Adam Ashley Cooper, who is chasing seven points to rack up for 100 Super Rugby points, at 13. The back three will see wingers Rob Horne and Cam Crawford combined with fullback Israel Folau, who needs just one more try to equal the Waratahs’ record for most individual Super Rugby tries in a season.
Veteran Wycliff Palu returns via the bench after missing the last two games. Cheika has named a nine-man bench to travel to Auckland, with one player still to be omitted to form the matchday 23.
NSW Waratahs team for Blues, April 25 (ANZAC Day) at Eden Park, Auckland
1. Benn Robinson (Eastwood), 2. Tatafu Polota Nau (Parramatta), 3. Sekope Kepu (Randwick), 4.Will Skelton (Sydney University), 5. Kane Douglas (Southern Districts), 6. Jacques Potgieter (Eastern Suburbs), 7. Michael Hooper (Manly), 8. Dave Dennis (Sydney University, captain), 9. Nick Phipps (Sydney University), 10. Bernard Foley (Sydney University), 11. Rob Horne (Southern Districts), 12. Kurtley Beale (Randwick), 13. Adam Ashley-Cooper (Northern Suburbs), 14. Cam Crawford (Northern Suburbs), 15 Israel Folau (Sydney University).
Replacements (one to be omitted): 16. Tolu Latu (Sydney University), 17. Jeremy Tilse (Sydney University), 18. Paddy Ryan (Sydney University), 19. Pat McCutcheon (Sydney University), 20. Wycliff Palu (Manly), 21. Brendan McKibbin (Eastern Suburbs), 22 Jono Lance (Eastern Suburbs), 23. Matt Carraro (Randwick) 24. Stephen Hoiles (Randwick).