The Waratahs have chosen an exciting back three for their first trial of the year—against the Brumbies this Saturday at Wagga Wagga.
All Black Zac Guildford will play at fullback, which could signal his playing there when Israel Folau gets a chance to perform at outside centre later on. Impressive ex-leaguie Reece Robinson will be on the right wing and young gun Andrew Kellaway, one of eleven trial players not to have played yet in Super Rugby, will play on the left.
Head Coach Daryl Gibson praised Robinson:
What Reece offers is the type of winger that we don’t have. He’s very fast and finishes well on the end of a backline creating him those opportunities.
He added that the coaching staff were “impressed with how quickly he has picked up the breakdown, and his contact skills.”
When asked if Robinson was the fastest player at the Waratahs, Gibson said: “He probably is”.
Veteran centre Matt Carraro will team up in the midfield with David Horwitz, the winner of the 2015 Catchpole Medal for Player of the Year in the Shute Shield. Equally adept in the 10 or 12 jersey Horwitz will act as a second ball player.
The halves’ pairing is brand-new with 9. Jake Gordon teaming up with the 2015 Aussie U20 flyhalf 10 Andrew Deegan.
The forwards are better known and no.8 Jed Holloway will be staking his claim at Wagga to get the starting spot for the Waratahs in 2016.
Of the ten current Waratahs at the Rugby World Cup [RWC], Will Skelton, now recovered from his pectoral muscle injury and looking fit, is the only one in the trial team.
Of particular interest will be the trial performance of 20-year-old Ned Hanigan in the second row, though he is agile enough to play 6. The Coonamble lad is a workhorse and able lineout manager and jumper, and could be a smokie to have a few Super Rugby games this year.
Angus Ta’avao the new THP signing from the Blues will play from the bench after a slow start to full training because of injury.
The Waratahs completed their final training session before their Wagga trial, today.
With the the rain bucketing down driven by a cool southerly wind the lads got some relief from the stinking hot practice sessions of previous weeks, but the ball was wet and some pill was dropped.
But it will be drier and warmer in Wagga where a maximum temperature of 31º is expected on Saturday, though it will be cooler at kick-off at 7pm.
When asked, 21-year-old inside-centre or flyhalf David Horwitz agreed it would be difficult to break into the Waratahs starting back line.
He said that was lucky to have those guys in front of him to learn from them.
I learn more from working with Kurtley Beale than I do from the coaches.
He meant that what Kurtley did he had to learn from Kurtley; but he praised Gibson for the giving him pointers in the same position he, Gibson, played in.
He said that Kurtley was a “such a relaxed guy” off the field but was able to bring that to a game when he was under the spotlight on the field.
Horwitz said he was jumpy when he first came through and became a bit too excited when a play was on, but being around Beale has helped him to settle back and execute “when the heat’s on”.
He was happy at 12 to help take the pressure off the 10 and can also do some ball-playing himself. What he didn’t mention was his deadly right-foot step would be handy in either position.
As planned, the Waratahs are withholding some of their stars for the two trials in NZ.
The second trial for the Waratahs will be against the Chiefs, in Hamilton, on Friday Feb 12th. They will stay in New Zealand and have a camp “in the Southern Alps” before having their last trial, in Queenstown, on Friday Feb 19th, against last year’s Super Rugby Champions, The Highlanders.
Waratahs trial squad
Forwards: 1. Jeremy Tilse, 2. Hugh Roach, 3. Paddy Ryan, 4. Ned Hanigan, 5. Will Skelton, 6. David Dennis (c), 7. Jack Dempsey, 8. Jed Holloway,
Backs: 9. Jake Gordon, 10. Andrew Deegan, 11. Andrew Kellaway, 12. David Horwitz,13. Matt Carraro,14. Reece Robinson, 15. Zac Guildford
Reserves: 16. Tolu Latu, 17. Benn Robinson, 18. Angus Ta’avao, 19. Matt Sandell, 20. Senio Toleafoa, 21. Matt Lucas, 22. Harry Jones, 23. Bryce Hegarty, 24. Brad Wilkin, 25. Cameron Orr, 26. Rowan Perry.
The Los Pumas’ scum half at the RWC, Tomás Cubelli, will appear for the Brumbies for the first time and will be partnered by Matt Toomua at flyhalf.
Toomua is the only RWC Wallaby starting the game though Joe Tomane and Tevita Kuridrani will play from the bench.
Like the Waratahs, the Brumbies will not play some of the Wallabies who had a big load at the RWC: so Stephen Moore, Scott Fardy, David Pocock and Scott Sio will be saved for later trials.
Brumbies trial squad
Forwards: 1. Allan Alaalatoa, 2. Josh Mann-Rea, 3. Ben Alexander, 4. Tom Staniforth, 5. Sam Carter, 6. Jordan Smiler, 7. Jarrad Butler, 8. Ita Vaea.
Backs: 9. Tomás Cubelli, 10. Matt Toomua, 11. Nigel Ah Wong, 12. Jordan Jackson-Hope, 13. Andrew Smith, 14. Lausii Taliauli, 15. Aidan Toua.
Reserves: 16. Albert Anae, 17. Robbie Abel, 18. Leslie Leuluai’ali’i-Makin, 19. Ruan Smith, 20. Rory Arnold, 21. Blake Enever, 22. Ben Hyne, 23. Michael Wells, 24.Joe Powell, 25. Michael Dowsett, 26. Nick Jooste, 27.Joe Tomane, 28. Jake Rakic, 29. Tevita Kuridrani, 30. James Dargaville, 31. Isaac Thompson.
Saturday 6th February – trial match
7:00pm – kick-off between the Brumbies & Waratahs opening 2016 pre-season trial match
Location – McDonalds Park, 150 Copland Street, East Wagga Wagga, NSW.
Photos by Lee Grant