New-look Waratahs to face Rebels
March 19, 2014
Waratahs prop Sekope Kepu will make his first run-on start of the season © Getty Images
The New South Wales Waratahs have made four changes to their starting line-up for this Friday's home clash against the Melbourne Rebels at Allianz Stadium, as they bid to return the coveted Weary Dunlop Shield to Sydney.
Coach Michael Cheika has selected Sekope Kepu to start at loose-head prop. NSW's biggest ever player, Will Skelton, returns at lock, pushing Jacques Potgieter to flanker 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 think 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," Cheika said. 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 NSW player in history when he takes to the field on Friday night.
Skelton will join the durable Kane Douglas at lock in the reshuffled pack, whilst the back row will comprise blindside flanker 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 NSW 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," Cheika said.
Scrum-half 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," the No. 9 said.
In the midfield, Bernard Foley will wear the No. 10 jumper and Kurtley Beale, also lining up against his old club, will wear No. 12. Adam Ashley-Cooper is at outside centre and the back three of Peter Betham, Alofa Alofa and Israel Folau remains the same.
Waratahs: Israel Folau; Alofa Alofa, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Kurtley Beale, Peter Betham; Bernard Foley, Nick Phipps; Dave Dennis, Michael Hooper, Jacques Potgieter, Kane Douglas, Will Skelton; Paddy Ryan, Tatafu Polota Nau, Sekope Kepu. Replacements (from): Tolu Latu, Jeremy Tilse, Benn Robinson, Wycliff Palu, Stephen Hoiles, Brendan McKibbin, Rob Horne, Matt Carraro, Pat McCutcheon, Jonno Lance.
Greg Growden and Brett McKay discuss the Super Rugby talking points
Abacus, mittens, shock buzzer, back pats ... Greg Growden delivers his 2014 Christmas presents for Australian rugby; who gets the bomb?