The Waratahs have named a team with several changes to the one that lost to the Blues in Auckland for this week’s Super Rugby match against the Hurricanes.
The Waratahs host the Hurricanes who are Super Rugby’s form team currently as they have won their last four matches and now top the New Zealand Conference. Inspirational No. 8 Wycliff Palu returns for the match at Allianz Stadium this Saturday in which the Waratahs say that they are determined to keep their 100% Allianz Stadium 2014 record alive and record their first win over the Canes since 2010.
“We are aiming for consistency every week and will be looking to fix up our handling errors and our commitment to detail in finishing off the chances we make,” said assistant coach Nathan Grey. Palu is one of three new faces and five positional changes in the starting XV for the clash with the New Zealand conference leaders, who sit two points and three places above the Tahs on the competition ladder. He’s joined in the run-on side by wing Matt Carraro, favoured over Cam Crawford, and Paddy Ryan, who takes over from Sekope Kepu.
The team will run out in their new 2014 charity jersey for this match, will every players’ match-worn jersey signed and auctioned online after the final whistle. All proceeds will go to supporting the Trytons rugby team and Rugby Connect, a sporting program for children with intellectual difficulties. It’s three weeks since Palu has started a game (the veteran No. 8 missed out on the Stormers, Force and Bulls games before making his return off the bench last week against the Blues at Eden Park) and flanker and vice-captain Michael Hooper says his inclusion can’t be over-estimated.
“First of all, it’s great motivation having Cliff back, it will be nice to have the big man back,” said Hooper. “His physicality and the opposition knowing he’s in the team is a good to have.” Looking to end a two-game losing streak to the Canes, Palu’s inclusion forces skipper Dave Dennis to blindside flanker, with Hooper remaining at openside. Jacques Potgieter will move to lock to partner Kane Douglas, with Will Skelton coming off the bench.
Up front, Sekope Kepu has made way for Paddy Ryan at tighthead, Benn Robinson is on the openside, with Tatafu Polota Nau playing hooker. There’s just one change to the backline with Matt Carraro, who spent five seasons in Europe before returning to the Waratahs in 2014, replaces Cam Crawford on the wing for his first starting role of the season. After a slow start to the season, a string of wins has seen the Hurricanes surge to the top of the New Zealand conference.
“They’re certainly playing some really good football. They’ve changed their style of attack and how they go about things and it seems to be working for them,” said Waratahs centre Adam Ashley-Cooper. “So they’re certainly competing up there with the Chiefs and they’re obviously leading the New Zealand conference ladder for a reason. They’re a good team. “For us, it’s a really big game. We’re at home, we need to win. Obviously it wasn’t the result we wanted last week and I feel this game could define our season.”
1. Benn Robinson , 2. Tatafu Polota Nau , 3. Paddy Ryan , 4. Kane Douglas 5. Jacques Potgieter , 6. Dave Dennis (c), 7. Michael Hooper , 8. Wycliff Palu , 9. Nick Phipps , 10. Bernard Foley , 11. Rob Horne , 12. Kurtley Beale , 13. Adam Ashley-Cooper , 14. Matt Carraro , 15. Israel Folau .
Replacements (two to be omitted): 16. Tolu Latu , 17. Jeremy Tilse , 18. Sekope Kepu , 19. Will Skelton 20. Pat McCutcheon , 21. Stephen Hoiles, 22. Brendan McKibbin , 23. Jono Lance , 24. Cam Crawford , 25. Alofa Alofa