Waratahs’ new bloods get their chance in season opener
Photos: Karen Watson & AJF Photography
A new era gets underway for the NSW Waratahs on Saturday night, with several fresh faces named in the matchday squad for the clash against the Hurricanes at Brookvale Oval that ushers in the 2019 Super Rugby season.
New arrival Karmichael Hunt and returning hero Adam Ashley-Cooper form a new-look centre partnership, while there are spots on the bench for potential debutants Rory O’Connor, Lachlan Swinton and Chris Talakai. There is also the welcome return of Jack Dempsey to state colours after long-term injury ruled him out of the majority of 2018.
What the injection of new blood does mean however, is that the likes of Kurtley Beale and Nick Phipps miss out. But as head coach Daryl Gibson explained, it’s all part of an intentionally different approach from Australian rugby in terms of man-management, in what is a World Cup year.
“Karmichael’s inclusion allows us the ability to manage the workload of Kurtley, who was the Waratahs highest minute player in 2018,” said Gibson. “KB will get an extra week to prepare for the season ahead.
“This is a new approach for Australian rugby teams, rotating players and managing their workloads leading into a World Cup campaign. This is why we ensured we had depth in our squad so we have the flexibility while remaining competitive.”
It’s a meteoric rise for O’Connor, Swinton and Talakai, who who were all taking part in the Shute Shield grand final last September for club sides Warringah and Sydney University respectively. But as Gibson explained, it is just reward for their efforts in the last few months of preparation for the new campaign.
“It’s pleasing to also have potential Super Rugby debutants in Rory, Chris and Lachie among our 23, who have all earned their spots given their efforts throughout our pre-season.”
NSW WARATAHS v HURRICANES
Brookvale Oval, 7.45pm AEDT, Saturday 16th February
NSW WARATAHS: 1. Harry Johnson-Holmes; 2. Damien Fitzpatrick; 3. Sekope Kepu; 4. Jed Holloway; 5. Rob Simmons; 6. Ned Hanigan; 7. Michael Hooper (c); 8. Jack Dempsey; 9. Jake Gordon; 10. Bernard Foley; 11. Curtis Rona; 12. Karmichael Hunt; 13. Adam Ashley-Cooper; 14. Alex Newsome; 15. Israel Folau
Replacements: 16. Tolu Latu; 17. Rory O’Connor; 18. Chris Talakai; 19. Lachlan Swinton; 20. Will Miller; 21. Mitch Short; 22. Mack Mason; 23. Cam Clark