Tahs' big guns out for Benji's Blues
Thu, 09 Jan 2014 10:54
I expect them to challenge for the NZ conference title
The Waratahs will have a full contingent of Wallabies on deck when they run out at home for the first time in 2014.
The will bring out all their big guns for the cracking trial game against newcomer Benji Marshall and the Blues at Allianz Stadium on Friday, February 7.
Wallabies Israel Folau, Adam Ashley-Cooper and Michael Hooper are expected to join fellow year-end tourists Dave Dennis, Kane Douglas, Sekope Kepu, Benn Robinson, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Bernard Foley, Paddy Ryan, Nick Phipps and Peter Betham for the clash against John Kirwan's Blues line up.
The game is also expected to feature new Rugby League convert Benji Marshall.
Only one place separated the two teams last season, with the Tahs finishing in ninth spot ahead of the 10th place Blues.
In their only match-up of the 2013 Super Rugby season, the Waratahs fought back from a half-time deficit to allow Bernard Foley to seal a 30-27 win with a penalty after the bell.
A must–not-miss game, the Waratahs' first match at home for 2014 is a fan's dream - with a likely clash of three of the most instinctive attacking footballers in any code, as Israel Folau and Kurtley Beale go head-to-head against newcomer Marshall, who is set to start his Rugby Union career in the No.15 jumper.
Waratahs assistant coach, All Black Daryl Gibson, said that watching a player with special skills like Marshall will make his initial transition to Rugby Union worth the admission price alone.
But the Blues aren't just a one man team.
Twelve players have international experience. Among the six current All Blacks are Frank Halai who topped the 2013 Super Rugby's try scoring table with 10. Plus they've signed the experienced Ma'a Nonu for the next two years.
"Loaded with a good balance of experience and young exciting talent, the Blues look like a very competitive team this year and I expect them to challenge for the New Zealand conference title," said Gibson.
A Kiwi contest always provides an opportunity to test out set-pieces, defensive and attacking ploys as well as gaining some valuable tough-as-they-come match practice.
* The Waratahs will hit the road at the end of the month in preparation for season 2014, with their three pre-season matches locked in-place.
The road trip will see the Waratahs kick off their trials on the NSW and Victorian border at Albury on February 1, before returning to Sydney's Allianz Stadium for game two the following week.
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, February 7. The Highlanders in the steel city's Hunter Stadium on February 14 completes the Waratahs pre-season program.
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