Wallaby heavyweights Wycliff Palu and Benn Robinson will be back in action for the HSBC Waratahs this Friday, taking on Tonga at the Sydney Football Stadium in final preparation for the start of the FxPro Super Rugby season the following week.
Knee surgery ruled Robinson out of contention for last October’s Rugby World Cup, while hamstring concerns left Palu unable to see out the tournament but both are now back to full fitness and raring to go.
The match also marks the HSBC Waratahs debut for Adam Ashley-Cooper, who returns to NSW to having previously represented the state as a junior.
“The inclusion of Benn, Cliff and Adam is another step forward in our preparations for round one next weekend, and gives us the opportunity to progress combinations with a view to our first FxPro Super Rugby game against Queensland,” said Head Coach Michael Foley.
To accommodate the returning internationals, Foley has also made a number of positional changes that will see Sekope Kepu switch to tight-head, Brackin Karauria-Henry move from full back to left wing and Pat McCutcheon revert to his preferred open-side flanker position. The match will also be another opportunity for 20-year-old flier Tom Kingston, who this week gets a run on the right wing, following last Friday’s injury to Lachie Turner.
With Foley and the coaches keen to maximize game time ahead of next Saturday’s big round one clash with FxPro Super Rugby champions the Queensland Reds at ANZ Stadium (7.40pm), the match will follow a similar format to last week.
The sides will once again be led by Berrick Barnes and Daniel Halangahu, after both earned the praise of coach Foley for their composure in difficult conditions against Samoa last Friday.
‘The Samoa game was a good test of our ability to control the game under difficult circumstances, notable an unpredictable opposition and very challenging weather conditions.
“I thought our two forward packs gave us good platform and our nines and 10s in particular made excellent decisions. One thing that stood out for me was our discipline, we retained our composure in difficult conditions, and on the back of that we were able to control the game by sticking to what we said we wanted to do. That will give us plenty to build on against Tonga,” he finished.
Waratahs XV to contest first two quarters
1. Benn Robinson (Eastwood)
2. Tatafu Polota-Nau (Parramatta)
3. Sekope Kepu (Randwick)
4. Dean Mumm (Sydney University)
5. Kane Douglas (Southern Districts)
6. Dave Dennis (Sydney University)
7. Pat McCutcheon (Sydney University), vice captain
8. Wycliff Palu (Manly)
9. Sarel Pretorius (N/A)
10. Berrick Barnes (Sydney University), captain
11. Brackin Karauria-Henry (Southern Districts)
12. Tom Carter (Sydney University)
13. Rob Horne (Southern Districts)
14. Tom Kingston (Sydney University)
15. Adam Ashley-Cooper (Northern Suburbs)
Waratahs XV to contest last two quarters
1. Jeremy Tilse (Sydney University)
2. Damien Fitzpatrick (Eastwood)
3. Paddy Ryan (Sydney University)
4. Richard Stanford (Eastern Suburbs)*
5. Greg Peterson (Manly)
6. Tevita Metuisela (Manly)
7. Chris Alcock (Eastwood)
8. Lopeti Timani (Southern Districts)
9. Brendan McKibbin (Eastern Suburbs), vice captain
10. Daniel Halangahu (Sydney University), captain
11. Peter Betham (Sydney University)*
12. Toby Browne (Randwick)*
13. Michael Hodge (Sydney University)*
14. Nathan Trist (Sydney University)
15. Bernard Foley (Sydney University)
16. John Ulugia (Southern Districts)
17. Lotu Taukeiaho (Randwick)
18. Liam Winton (Sydney University)*
19. Seilala Lam (Randwick)*
20. Grayson Hart (Southern Districts)
21. Jesse Leota (Parramatta)*
22. Tom Hill (Gordon)*
* Invited player