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Waratahs to hit the country roads

Tue, 17 Dec 2013 08:54
Michael-cheika-tahs-gesture
We want to play in front of our country supporters
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The Waratahs will hit the road in preparation for the 2014 Super Rugby season with their three pre-season matches locked in-place.

The road trip will see the Waratahs kick off their trials on the New Sout Wales and Victorian border at Albury, before returning to Sydney’s Allianz Stadium for game two. The Waratahs then head to Newcastle for their final hit out prior to the commencement of the Super Rugby Season.

The Waratahs will take on interstate rivals the Rebels, on the banks of the Murray River in Albury on Saturday February 1. Next up, is John Kirwan’s Blues at Allianz Stadium on Friday night, February 7. The Highlanders in the steel city’s Hunter Stadium on February 14 completes their pre-season program.

Despite travelling close to 1500 kilometres, coach Michael Cheika is adamant they are not away games and the New South Wales country can expect more in the future.

“They are actually home games since they are all in New South Wales. We will have to wait a couple of seasons for the possibility of taking our Super Rugby matches to the country areas so any chance we can we want to play in front of our country supporters.”

But it’s not just about playing, during the drive they’ll be doing their best to connect with every community they pass through and more and the coach is ready to shake plenty of hands.

The Waratahs will be out to meet and greet as many fans as possible on the way to Albury, and it’s not just the rugby fans the Waratahs are hoping to interact with. The engagement objective is simple, it doesn’t matter what team or code you follow, if you’re from New South Wales, Cheika says you can support the Waratahs.

“I’ve been a part of strong teams, both as a player and as a coach and those teams have had a strong connection between their fans and the team," he said.

The Rebels are the current holders of the Weary Dunlop Shield after a two-point win over the Waratahs in 2013.

Adding to the rivalry Kurtley Beale and Nick Phipps will take on former teammates while assistant coach Nathan Grey will coach against his former club for the first time after spending three seasons with the Rebels

“It will be great, a good challenge and  fun to see all the Rebels players but also be a bit weird to see them on the other side of the of the fence. I am really looking forward to the game and it will be great for the Waratahs to finally have their first hit out after a long pre-season,” said Grey.

In the Waratahs second pre-season trial they face the Blues and Waratahs assistant coach and former All Black Daryl Gibson believes it could be a promoters dream, with a convert Benji Marshall making his first foray into senior rugby and he could be facing up to Kurtley Beale .

“Watching Benji transition from league to union will be interesting especially given the very successful debut season by Israel Folau,” he said.

Assisting Marshall’s transformation is a young and exciting backline that has a mix of experience with Ma Nonu plus exciting youngsters  Charlie Piutau, Francis Saili and Frank Halai as well as last season’s leading try scorer in Super Rugby, Frank Halai.

There’s a lot at stake in the final trial against the Highlanders at Newcastle’s Hunter Stadium. For the Waratahs, it’s the last chance to impress the coach and show teammates they want a spot in the opening game against the Western Force.

“We will learn a bit about ourselves against the Highlanders, they are a contact based team and that will test us in different ways.” claims Gibson.

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