Waratahs shuffle their pack

Tue, 18 Mar 2014 06:41
Large sekope kepu waratahs

The Waratahs have made four changes to their starting forward pack for this Friday's home clash against the Melbourne Rebels in Sydney.

The Waratahs have made four changes to their starting forward pack for this Friday's home clash against the Melbourne Rebels in Sydney.

Coach Michael Cheika has selected Sekope Kepu to start at loosehead prop. New South Wale's biggest ever player, Will Skelton, returns at lock, pushing Jacques Potgieter to flank and Dave Dennis to No.8.

Benn Robinson slips back to the bench to allow Wallaby prop Kepu his first run on start of 2014.

"I just wanted to try this combination, I thinks Keps has played well and was unlucky to miss out in the first place. He's done what he needs to do to force his way back in the side," said Cheika. Kepu isn't about to let his coach down, promising. "I'll leave no stone unturned to get it right."

He packs down alongside Paddy Ryan and hooker Tatafu Polota Nau, who will become the sixth most capped Waratahs player in history, when he takes to the field on Friday night.  

In the reshuffled pack, Skelton will join the durable Kane Douglas at lock, whilst the loose trio will comprise blindside flank Potgieter, Michael Hooper, who earns his 50th Super Rugby cap at openside, and skipper Dave Dennis at No.8.

If he comes on from the bench, Wycliff Palu will earn his 99th New South Wales state cap against Melbourne.

"We've got to make sure we use Cliff correctly and he'll definitely contribute at the back end of the game," stated the coach.

Scrumhalf Nick Phipps takes on his old club for the first time in Super Rugby, since joining the Waratahs at the start of this season.

"I've got a lot of friends down there but it won't be any different to playing any other Australian franchise," claimed the number nine.

In the midfield, Bernard Foley will wear the 10 jumper and Kurtley Beale, also lining up against his old club, will wear number 12.  Adam Ashley-Cooper is at outside centre and the back three of Peter Betham, Alofa Alofa and Israel Folau remains the same.

Waratahs: 15 Israel Folau, 14 Alofa Alofa, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Kurtley Beale, 11 Peter Betham, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Dave Dennis (captain), 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Jacques Potgieter, 5 Kane Douglas, 4 Will Skelton, 3 Paddy Ryan, 2 Tatafu Polota Nau, 1 Sekope Kepu.  
Replacements  - from: 16 Tolu Latu, 17 Jeremy Tilse, 18 Benn Robinson, 19 Wycliff Palu, 20 Stephen Hoiles, 21 Brendan McKibbin, 22 Rob Horne, 23 Matt Carraro, 24 Pat McCutcheon, 25 Jonno Lance.  

Date: Friday, March 21
Venue: Allianz Stadium, Sydney
Kick-off: 19.40 (08.40 GMT)
Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Rohan Hoffmann (Australia), Graham Cooper (Australia)
TMO: George Ayoub (Australia)

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Pool AU
Team P W D L Pts
Waratahs 16 11 0 5 52
Brumbies 16 9 0 7 47
Rebels 16 7 0 9 36
Reds 16 4 0 12 22
Force 16 3 0 13 19
Pool NZ
Team P W D L Pts
Hurricanes 16 14 0 2 66
Highlanders 16 11 0 5 53
Chiefs 16 10 0 6 48
Crusaders 16 9 0 7 46
Blues 16 3 0 13 20
Pool SA
Team P W D L Pts
Stormers 16 10 1 5 45
Lions 16 9 1 6 42
Bulls 16 7 0 9 38
Sharks 16 7 0 9 34
Cheetahs 16 5 0 11 26