The Waratahs and Force will start their Super Rugby season with an all Aussie derby this weekend when they face-off at Allianz Stadium.
Head Coach Daryl Gibson unveiled his side for round one at Tuesday night’s official season season launch at NSW Parliament House.
Bernard Foley was ruled out of round one of the Vodafone Super Rugby this Saturday while he still recovers from a head knock sustained against the Highlanders in the pre-season game last week at Brookvale.
Foley was named in the starting line up for this weekend with Head Coach Daryl Gibson giving him as much time as possible to get himself fit.
“Bernard hasn’t met our ‘return to play’ protocols so will miss round one. While he has been improving daily since last Thursday’s game, he’s not 100 per cent fit to play and we certainly won’t be taking any risks.”
“He will be with us in South Africa and we have confidence he’ll be ready for round two. Bryce Hegarty will step into the number ten position nicely for us this weekend.”
It has been a busy pre season for the Tahs, who will be welcoming back some players from injury as well as the next generation of players.
“We welcome back Rob Horne after five months with the shoulder injury. He’s worked well to get back to full fitness.
“With Irae (Simone) we were very impressed with his NRC and Shute Shield form, he’s really continued that form through to Super Rugby and showed against the Highlanders that he can perform at this level. He brings a nice mix of skills, he has the size, where he can carry the ball across the line and excellent kicking and playing making skills.”said Gibson.
Meanwhile the Force have pulled a selection shock for their clash with the Waratahs, opting for Heath Tessman to start at hooker.
Force club captain Tessman was one of the form players in the NRC champion Perth Spirit side last year, but new recruit, Wallabies back up Tatafu Polota-nau was expected to get the starting job.
Polota-nau will sit on the pine, forced to wait for his first confrontation with his former teammates.
In a boon for the Force, Test lock Adam Coleman will play his first match after a knee injury, named to start alongside Ross Haylett-Petty.
Coleman hasn’t played since twisting his knee against Scotland on the Wallabies Spring Tour.
They’ll have a relatively inexperienced back row, with Matt Hodgson (hamstring) and Ben McCalman (thumb) injured.
Highly rated centre combination, Bill Meakes and Curtis Rona, will have their first Super Rugby outing in a Sydney after an impressive preseason.
“It’s always exciting to actually be able to start the season after a long pre-season, the team have worked very hard,” he said.
“What we’ve tried to do is reward the players who we feel have shown the most intensity in their work up until now, so as always there were a few players unlucky to miss out, but we’re very proud of the guys that will represent us this weekend. “ said Dave Wessels.
Prediction: Can only go on last season and give it to Waratahs by 15 points
Waratahs: 15 Andrew Kellaway, 14 Reece Robinson, 13 Israel Folau, 12 Irae Simone, 11 Rob Horne, 10 Bryce Hegarty , 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Michael Wells, 7 Michael Hooper (c), 6 Jack Dempsey, 5 Will Skelton, 4 Dean Mumm, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Tolu Latu, 1 Tom Robertson
Replacements: 16 Hugh Roach, 17 Paddy Ryan, 18 David Lolohea, 19 Ned Hanigan, 20 Brad Wilkin, 21 Matt Lucas, 22 Taqele Naiyaravoro, 23 David Horwitz
Force: 1 Pek Cowan, 2 Heath Tessmann (C), 3 Jermaine Ainsley, 4 Ross Haylett-Petty, 5 Adam Coleman, 6 Brynard Stander, 7 Kane Koteka, 8 Richard Hardwick, 9 Ryan Louwrens, 10 Jono Lance, 11 Chance Peni, 12 Bill Meakes, 13 Curtis Rona, 14 Luke Morahan, 15 Dane Haylett-Petty (VC)
Replacements: 16 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 17 Ben Daley, 18 Tetera Faulkner, 19 Matt Philip, 20 Isireli, Naisarani, 21 Michael Ruru, 22 Ian Prior, 23 Alex Newsome