Cheika wields a heavy axe

Tue, 29 Apr 2014 08:15
Large wycliff palu

Veteran No.8 Wycliff Palu will return to the starting line-up as the Waratahs bid to end their erratic form in recent weeks.

Veteran No.8 Wycliff Palu will return to the starting line-up as the Waratahs bid to end their erratic form in recent weeks.

The Waratahs are at home to the New Zealand conference-leading Hurricanes in Sydney on Saturday.

After the disappointment of last weekend's loss to the Blues in Auckland, the Waratahs are determined to keep their 100 percent Allianz Stadium 2014 record alive and record their first win over the Canes since 2010.

"We are aiming for consistency every week and will be looking to fix up our handling errors and our commitment to detail in finishing off the chances we make," said assistant coach Nathan Grey.  

Palu is one of three new faces and five positional changes made to the starting XV by coach Michael Cheika for the clash against a Hurricanes team that sits two points and three places above the Tahs on the competition ladder.

He is joined in the run-on side by wing Matt Carraro, favoured over Cam Crawford, and Paddy Ryan, who takes over from Sekope Kepu.

It's three weeks since Palu has started a game. The veteran No.8 missed out on the Stormers, Force and Bulls games before making his return off the bench last week against the Blues at Eden Park.

Flank and vice-captain Michael Hooper says his inclusion can't be over-estimated.

"First of all, it's great motivation having Cliff back, it will be nice to have the big man back," said Hooper.

"His physicality and the opposition knowing he's in the team is a good to have."

Looking to end a two-game losing streak to the Canes, Palu's inclusion forces skipper Dave Dennis to blindside flank, with Hooper remaining at openside.

Jacques Potgieter will move to lock to partner Kane Douglas, with Will Skelton coming off the bench.

Up front, Sekope Kepu has made way for Paddy Ryan at tighthead, Benn Robinson is on the openside, with Tatafu Polota Nau playing hooker.

There's just one change to the backline with Matt Carraro, who spent five seasons in Europe before returning to the Waratahs in 2014, replaces Cam Crawford on the wing for his first starting role of the season.

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

Date: Saturday, May 3
Venue: Allianz Stadium, Sydney
Kick-off: 19.40 (09.40 GMT; 21.40 NZ time)
Referee: Steve Walsh (Australia)
Assistant referees: Angus Gardner (Australia) , Michael Hogan (Australia)
TMO: George Ayoub (Australia)

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