Cheika expects more from recalled stars
April 17, 2013
Waratahs coach Michael Cheika is making his mark by really testing his international players © Getty Images
No.8 Palu and hooker Polota-Nau have both been recalled to the starting side for Friday's Super Rugby clash with the Chiefs in Sydney, with Pat McCutcheon and John Ulugia respectively dropping out.
The Waratahs will field a Test strength pack, with all eight starters having played for the Wallabies. Cheika made a third change, promoting imposing winger Cameron Crawford for his first Super start at the expense of Peter Betham.
Renowned for their hard running and big hitting, Polota-Nau and Palu have had stop-start seasons due to injury, with both playing club rugby last weekend.
"I've picked them this week because I think it's time that they put their mark on the season," Cheika said.
Palu felt the Waratahs pack as a whole needed to lift to face the defending champions and current second-placed side on the ladder.
"When everyone is on song we're a pretty physical pack and I think we probably haven't been living up to our potential," Palu said. "Hopefully this week is the week where we all switch on."
Cheika had no reservations about blooding Crawford against a team renowned for their backline flair and pace out wide.
"He's got a certain skill set that I think could be handy for us this week and I think his opportunity is well merited," Cheika said.
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An imposing 193cms and 98kgs, Crawford has had only one previous taste of Super Rugby, coming off the bench for the Brumbies in a clash with Western Force last season.
"I'm really excited to play against the Chiefs, they are one of my favourite teams to watch," said Crawford, who is likely to line up on Asaeli Tikoirotuma.
The Waratahs enter the round in 10th place, just two points outside sixth spot but are the only team to have already had their two four-point byes.
Cheika was disappointed his other starting winger Drew Mitchell announced on Wednesday he was signing for Toulon, but said it would not impact on his selection chances and he would continue being picked as long as he performed.
Waratahs: Israel Folau, Cam Crawford, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Rob Horne, Drew Mitchell, Bernard Foley, Brendan McKibbin, Wycliff Palu, Michael Hooper, Dave Dennis (capt), Kane Douglas, Sitaleki Timani, Sekope Kepu, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Benn Robinson. Replacements: John Ulugia, Paddy Ryan, Mitchell Chapman, Will Skelton, Pat McCutcheon, Matt Lucas, Ben Volavola, Peter Betham (one to be omitted).
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