New comp, new team: Waratahs ring the changes for Super Rugby AU

The new breed (l-r) Will Harris, Ben Donaldson, Tiaan Tauakipulu & Joey Walton – Photos: NSWRU Media

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NSW Waratahs head coach Rob Penney has used the start of the revamped Australian-only Super Rugby competition to blood a host of fresh faces, with five debutants named in the matchday squad for Friday evening’s opening clash with the Queensland Reds at Suncorp Stadium.

All up, there are eight changes from the 23 that last took to the field in Cambridge Blue against the Brumbies on March 15th, in what seems like a vastly different time in a vastly different world since Covid-19 unleashed its devastation. From that squad that went down 47-14 in Canberra, Kurtley Beale has left for France, Damien Fitzpatrick has retired, and Rory O’Connor has decided to switch his focus to a career outside the game, while Jake Gordon, Karmichael Hunt and Lalakai Foketi are all battling hamstring injuries.

In for their first taste of professional footy from the start are Will Harris (no.8) and Joey Walton (inside centre), with Tom Horton (hooker), Tiaan Tauakipulu (prop) and Ben Donaldson (utility back) awaiting their chance off the bench. The squad also has a spine of myrtle green running through it, with eight of those named affiliated to the Randwick club.

Rob Penney sings the praises of his young guns – Video courtesy of NSWRU Media

Reds coach Brad Thorn has also named a couple of debutants in his side in lock Tuaina Taii Tualima and outside back Josh Flook, but has opted to stick largely with the troops that were starting to gain some traction before the unforeseen halt to proceedings in the regular Super Rugby competition. But by naming Fraser McReight and Harry Wilson in the backrow, the eagerly-anticipated derby will see 10 of the Junior Wallabies that finished runners-up at last year’s World Rugby U20s Championship, facing off for interstate bragging rights.

“As a club, we continue to bring young talent through our Academy and also through club footy,” said Thorn. “It’s great to see Tuaina and Josh named in the 23. They’ve worked hard and as a group, we congratulate them on this achievement.

“We’re pumped to be back playing Rugby again this week,” he continued. “We’ve been in a moment of history – 100 years since the Spanish flu. It’s been a tough four months, but as group – both players and staff, we’ve worked hard for each other and adapted to the challenges.
 
“It doesn’t get any better than playing the Waratahs in the season opener. Queensland v New South Wales – there’s plenty of tradition there. It’s a great rivalry and we look forward to continuing that on Friday night.”

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Vodafone Super Rugby AU – Round 1
QUEENSLAND REDS V NSW WARATAHS
KO: 7:05pm (local), Friday 3 July at Suncorp Stadium
LIVE on FoxSports

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Queensland Reds: 1. Harry Hoopert (Brothers); 2. Brandon Paenga-Amosa (Sunnybank); 3. Taniela Tupou (Brothers); 4. Angus Blyth (Bond University); 5. Lukhan Salakaia-Loto (Souths); 6. Liam Wright (Easts) (c); 7. Fraser McReight (Brothers); 8. Harry Wilson (Brothers); 9. Tate McDermott (University of Queensland); 10. James O’Connor (Brothers); 11. Filipo Daugunu (Wests); 12. Hamish Stewart (Brothers); 13. Hunter Paisami (Wests); 14. Jock Campbell (University of Queensland); 15. Bryce Hegarty (GPS) – Replacements: 16. Alex Mafi (Bond University); 17. JP Smith (GPS); 18. Josh Nasser (University of Queensland); 19. Tuaina Taii Tualima* (GPS); 20. Angus Scott-Young (University of Queensland); 21. Scott Malolua (Souths); 22. Chris Feauai-Sautia (Souths); 23. Josh Flook* (Brothers) – *Denotes debut

NSW Waratahs: 1. Angus Bell (Sydney Uni); 2. Robbie Abel (Gordon); 3. Harry Johnson-Holmes (Sydney Uni); 4. Ned Hanigan; 5. Rob Simmons (Randwick) (c); 6. Lachlan Swinton (Sydney Uni); 7. Michael Hooper (Manly); 8. Will Harris (Eastern Suburbs)*; 9. Mitch Short (Randwick); 10. Will Harrison (Randwick); 11. Mark Nawaqanitawase (Eastwood); 12. Joey Walton (Gordon)*; 13. Alex Newsome (Eastern Suburbs) (vc); 14. James Ramm (Randwick); 15. Jack Maddocks (Eastern Suburbs) – Replacements: 16. Tom Horton (Sydney Uni)*; 17. Tetera Faulkner (Southern Districts); 18. Tiaan Tauakipulu (Randwick)*; 19. Tom Staniforth (Eastern Suburbs); 20. Jack Dempsey (Gordon); 21. Michael McDonald (Randwick); 22. Ben Donaldson (Randwick)*; 23. Tepai Moeroa (Western Sydney Two Blues) – *Denotes debut

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