Waratahs Wilting Under Pressure

Image courtesy of dailytelegraph.com.au/Getty Images
Adam Ashley-Cooper will have a new centre partner this weekend. Image courtesy of dailytelegraph.com.au/Getty Images
A season that started with so much promise for the Waratahs is quickly unravelling. Berrick Barnes barely had time to get his bearings in his first game of the season before a broken thumb sidelined him for six weeks. At least he didn’t have to stay on the field to watch the ‘Tahs bumble their way through a 27-26 loss to South Africa’s Cheetahs.

New South Wales has just one win from four matches, as do the Rebels and Force, but the Waratahs have a worse points differential. It’s not a place Waratahs fans are accustomed to being in, and this weekend they face a tough match-up against the vastly improved Blues , now coached by former All Black Sir John Kirwan and the team is overseen by another man to receive his knighthood, Sir Graham Henry.

Hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau (hamstring) and battering ram Wycliff Palu (foot) are unavailable while Benn Robinson is unlikely to recover from a concussion to take the field. One international coach Michael Chieka does have at his disposal is flyer Drew Mitchell, who comes back in on the wing while Rob Horne is also an inclusion.

After starting the season in swashbuckling form with commanding wins over the Hurricanes and Crusaders, Kirwan made several changes prior to their last start 28-21 home loss to the Bulls. The early-season rotation didn’t work, and several first teamers are back in the starting XV for the trip across the ditch to Sydney. Importantly, first choice fly-half Chris Noakes is back to partner Piri Weepu in the halves.

The Blues have won the last two battles between these sides, although both of those games were played in Auckland. The Waratahs won the last clash at the Sydney Football Stadium 39-32 back in 2010.

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