The HSBC Waratahs revealed a new gun at Newington College during their final practice before travelling south to face the Brumbies at Canberra Stadium on Saturday night. Ben Volovola, the super-sub in their first two games, would start at fullback.
To accommodate him Israel Folau moves to the right wing. In another change Lachie Turner plays from the bench, replacing Tom Kingston in the match day team.
In the forwards Sitaleki Timani returns to the second row after his injury, Mitch Chapman moves over to the blindside flank, and Dave Dennis switches to replace the injured Cliffy Palu at no. 8.
Pat McCutcheon makes a welcome return to the side and replaces Jeremy Tilse, the fourth prop in the previous match day squads, on the bench. Luke Holmes displaces John Ulugia as the reserve hooker.
The new starting fullback, Ben Volavola, said he enjoyed how Christian Cullen played in the position. He also admired the calm control and organisation of flyhalves Steve Larkham, in the past, and Dan Carter currently.
When asked about the impact from the bench in the Waratahs’ first two games Volavola said:
“I tried to lift the boys when I came off the bench and raise the intensity – as Cheik told us to do at half-time […] The replacements have been able to do that in the last couple of weeks and hopefully, starting this week, we can do it from the get-go.”
Waratahs’ coach, Michael Cheika, said of the new fullback:
Ben has made it too difficult not to pick him now. He’s forced me to make some changes.
He’s not scared; he’s not scared to fail; he’ll take a chance and back himself and I like that. He’s a good foil for Bernard [Foley] because he’s another ballplayer.
As to why Lachie Turner was on the bench:
Just to change the shape of the back three for a 5-2 bench. Lachie Turner has good experience, can cover three positions; can cover centre, properly.
“Tom Kingston is young in his career and I don’t want him to be thinking about playing centre too much – now he’s a winger, out-and-out. Lachlan deserves an opportunity: he hasn’t had a run yet. […] He’s starting to get a bit angry now, which I like, and hopefully he will make it count when he goes on the field.”
Was Israel Folau suited to the wing?
We see him as a fullback […] but the [back] three can interchange and now [he's playing wing] from the start, but who knows: he could end up at fullback during the game.”
When asked about the original list which had Sekope Kepu on the bench and Paddy Ryan starting:
Keps is not on the bench […] That’s a typo – Keps is playing his 50th cap; can’t leave him on the bench for his 50th cap, that would be a pretty low blow: I’m a nasty guy but I’m not that nasty.
But I will say to you that Paddy Ryan is making it very difficult for me […] I think that it’s going to push Keps hard; […] he’s putting his hand up for a [starting] spot in the team.”
On Dave Dennis moving to no. 8 in place of the injured Palu, and Chapman moving to blindside flank:
The Brumbies have had an excellent defensive lineout: it’s very well drilled; they’ve been taking ball off everybody; so we need to have a lot of options in the lineout to counter that – alongside of the fact that Mitch Chapman has played very well.
“I wanted to bring [Sitaleki Timani] back in from the start; I think he needs the run. Lopeti [Timani] wasn’t too happy about getting left out [of the starting team], but sometimes that happens; so he’ll have to take his opportunity off the bench.”
On Berrick Barnes:
On Tuesday afternoon he ran, he trained, he didn’t feel he was 100 percent to go, that he could do his job fully and at the end of the day, to me, that’s what counts. At the moment, unfortunately, [it's just week by week.]“
On what Jake White said – that nothing much has happened to the Waratahs game plan:
He’s won a World Cup; so he knows what he’s talking about. [Tongue in cheek] We probably have the same game plan as last year and are running with it.”
What did the Waratahs have that might surprise him?
Not much by the sound of it. We’ll just go down there and do our best.”
Where did he reckon the Brumbies were weak?
I don’t; they’ve shown they’re pretty consummate in what they do. […] They’re going to be very hard to beat.”
15. Ben Volavola, 14. Israel Folau, 13. Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12. Tom Carter, 11. Drew Mitchell, 10. Bernard Foley, 9. Brendan McKibbin, 8. Dave Dennis (c), 7. Michael Hooper, 6. Mitchell Chapman, 5. Kane Douglas, 4. Sitaleki Timani, 3. Sekope Kepu, 2. Tatafu Polota-Nau , 1. Benn Robinson
Replacements: 16. Luke Holmes, 17. Paddy Ryan, 18. Greg Peterson, 19. Lopeti Timani, 20. Pat McCutcheon, 21. Matt Lucas, 22. Lachie Turner.
The big news is that the iconic George Smith will be on the Brumbies bench, replacing Colby Fainga’a. Henry Speight starts on the right wing displacing Joe Tomane who becomes a reserve. Tevita Kudriani drops out of the match day squad.
15. Jesse Mogg, 14. Henry Speight, 13. Andrew Smith, 12. Christian Lealiifano, 11. Clyde Rathbone, 10. Matt Toomua, 9. Nic White, 8. Ben Mowen (c), 7. David Pocock, 6. Peter Kimlin, 5. Sam Carter, 4. Scott Fardy, 3. Dan Palmer, 2. Stephen Moore, 1. Ben Alexander,
Replacements: 16. Siliva Siliva, 17. Scott Sio, 18. Fotu Auelua, 19. George Smith, 20. Ian Prior, 21. Robbie Coleman, 22. Joe Tomane