Waratahs v Reds Preview: Backs to the Future II - Green and Gold Rugby
NSW Waratahs

Waratahs v Reds Preview: Backs to the Future II

Waratahs v Reds Preview: Backs to the Future II

Its rivalry round in Sydney, as the two oldest of Australian foes meet at the picturesque Sydney Cricket Ground for the second time in as many years. The Tahs will be looking for a far more complete performance on Saturday night after failing to impress in the opening 2 rounds before enjoying the week off last round. They have rolled out one of the most star-studded backlines seen in Super Rugby in what coach Daryl Gibson described as his strongest side indicating they mean business. The Reds on the other hand will be desperate to notch their first win of the season but perhaps more importantly break their longest losing streak against the Waratahs in their extensive history.


Following on from the opening round heartbreak at Brookvale, the New South Welshmen returned from Tokyo with their tails between their legs somewhat after narrowly escaping with a 1-point victory. However, this victory perhaps gained more credibility when the Sunwolves hammered the Chiefs last weekend. It’s hard what to make of the Waratahs so far, with promising periods of attack broken down by poor handling and an average showing at set piece time. To complicate things further, the harden edge they showed in defence against the Hurricanes was non- existent in Japan, with the Sunwolves running in some soft tries on their way to amassing 30 points.

Despite showing some encouraging signs in their opening two games the Reds remain winless in 2019. A tough loss to the Highlanders in the greenhouse in Dunedin was followed by an inevitable loss at home to the red-hot Crusaders. The big takeaway from both games however was the Reds refusal to lie down as in previous years and in both cases had to be beaten by their more fancied oppositions. The elephant in the room heading into this clash is the fact the boys from north of the tweed haven’t beaten their arch rivals in their last 9 encounters! What phycological impact that plays on this young Reds side remains to be seen but one thing for sure the men from Ballymore will be desperate to not let that win streak hit double figures.

Key match ups

Kurtley Beale vs Isaac Lucas – The youngest (and perhaps the most talented) Lucas brother will make his starting debut for the Reds named at fullback following two impressive cameos off the bench in 2019. The man he is up against is no stranger to the Waratahs starting side, but will be wearing a somewhat unfamiliar jersey, with Kurtley Beale named at fullback for the first time in 9 years for NSW. Isaac Lucas was just 8 when Beale made his starting debut in Super Rugby and has no doubt grown up idolising the St Joseph College product.

Front Row vs Front Row – Perhaps the one aspect on paper in which the Reds hold the cards is at scrumtime where they welcome back JP Smith, who will form a lethal scrummaging combination with Brandon Paenga Amosa and the Togan Thor. The Tahs have stuck with their more mobile trio of Harry Johnson-Holmes, Damien Fitzpatrick and Sekope Kepu who have struggled as a unit so far in 2019. Keep an eye out for the prodigal son, Tatafu Polata-Nau to join the fray if things start going pear shaped for the men in blue, with the veteran hooker rushed back into the frame following the suspension to Tolu Latu.

Photo courtesy of Keith McInnes

Beale gets a shot to run wild from fullback (Photo courtesy of Keith McInnes)


For the first time this season NSW are set to wheel out a Rolls Royce all Wallaby backline onto the SCG, who will no doubt be looking to emulate India’s performance at the ground of the most recent Summer and wreak havoc on their Aussie counterparts. Adam Ashley Cooper is the new man and will take his preferred position at outside centre. This pushes the irresistible Karmicheal Hunt into his more favoured spot at 12 who will be out to prove a point against his old team. Hunt’s shift inwards moves KB back to fullback and sees Israel Folau shifted to the wing, in what many predict might be a regular occurrence as the year goes on. The Reds have made injury enforced changes to their backline following the devastating news of boom youngster Jordan Petaia’s leg injury which is set to rule him out for the remainder of the season. Duncan Paia’aua will slot into inside centre to replace Petaia with Samu Kerevi shifting to 13 rekindling the combination of seasons past. The other change in the backline sees Bryce Hegarty move forward to replace the disappointing Hamish Stewart with 20-year-old Issac Lucas named at 15. Up front the Reds have opted to add more experience to their young pack, with JP Smith and Scott Higginbotham named for their first starts of the season.

Waratahs: 15 Kurtley Beale, 14 Israel Folau, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Karmichael Hunt, 11 Curtis Rona, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Jake Gordon, 8 Jack Dempsey, 7 Michael Hooper (c), 6 Ned Hanigan, 5 Rob Simmons, 4 Jed Holloway, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Damien Fitzpatrick, 1 Harry Johnson-Holmes
Replacements: 16 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 17 Rory O’Connor, 18 Chris Talakai, 19 Lachlan Swinton, 20 Will Miller, 21 Mitch Short, 22 Mack Mason, 23 Alex Newsome

Reds: 15 Isaac Lucas, 14 Chris Feauai-Sautia, 13 Samu Kerevi (c), 12 Duncan Paia’aua, 11 Sefa Naivalu, 10 Bryce Hegarty, 9 Moses Sorovi, 8 Scott Higginbotham, 7 Liam Wright, 6 Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, 5 Harry Hockings, 4 Izack Rodda, 3 Taniela Tupou, 2 Brandon Paenga-Amosa, 1 JP Smith
Replacements: 16 Alex Mafi, 17 Harry Hoopert, 18 Ruan Smith, 19 Caleb Timu, 20 Angus Scott-Young, 21 Tate McDermott, 22 Hamish Stewart, 23 Jack Hardy

Scott Higginbotham

Scott Higginbotham gets his first start of the season


Make no mistake, Brad Thorn will have this Reds side fired up come Saturday night and from what we have seen from them this year have the potential to ruffle a few NSW feathers, particularly up front. However, the Reds have lost each of their last 7 games away from home and conceded an average of 40 points per game in that time. The Waratahs have won 5 of their last 6 against Aussie opposition and the class and experience of their team which includes a total of 12 Wallabies should see them make it 10 in a row against their arch rivals.

Waratahs by 8

Match Details:

Date: Saturday 9 March

Kick-off:   19:45 local

Referee:  Glen Jackson

AR1: AJ Jacobs

AR2: Amy Perrett

TMO: James Leckie

  • Hoss

    A lot to like.

    Quick channel 1 pill on our own ball, baton down the hatches on Crimson ball.

    Really like the back-line for Gods Chosen Ones.

    Parity up front will see Viking-like plundering out wide

    Tahs by 13+

    • tREDgic

      Tell him he’s dreamin

    • Keith Butler

      I see that you’ve now moved to the max strength 24hr serotonin patch Hoss. Along with one or two others posting today. Just need the inhaler for that extra fix at game time.

      • Hoss

        Fully amped KB. Dare i say even the Canes / Landers curtain raiser looks a doozy

        Think the Ponies might just roll your boys tonight in a classic.

        • Keith Butler

          Don’t know about a classic. I remember years back when the Ponies and the Sharks were playing dynamic rugby and when they were due to meet everyone was expecting a ‘classic’. Two teams afraid to lose turned out to be the most boring kick feat I’ve ever seen. Just hope for a good game.

        • Keith Butler

          Mrs B came home early from work and i’m already halfway through my Six pack and the rugby hasn’t even started yet. Damn, restocking tomorrow.

        • Hoss

          Iam our the door now. Click and collect at MR Murphy’s. Pizza and new movie on the iPads to distract tin-lids.

          It’s rugby-o’clock.

        • Keith Butler

          Sounds like you had a few already.

        • Hoss


        • Kiwi rugby lover

          Pizza is ordered, cold beers in the fridge and one in the stubby holder. Life is good – except for the Highlanders leading (won’t be for long)

        • Hoss
        • Kiwi rugby lover

          You win

        • Hoss

          Big 8 Minutes

        • Kiwi rugby lover

          I’ll take the win. Bloody good game but had me worried. The Highlanders were great in close

        • Hoss

          Savea is a colossus

        • idiot savant

          love what you’ve done with the bananas

        • Hoss

          Now smashed against the walls. Fucking Ponies grabbing defeat from the jaws of victory. Powell and Lilo did their best Bovine Sprinkler and Spanners impersonation.

          Coach killers.

        • Adrian

          Exactly as predicted by the bookies

        • Hoss

          Your not helping !

        • Adrian

          Over-hyped players are always coach killers. I’m surprised that no-one points out that Powell was plucked from the obscurity of being Brums #4 halfback by Cheika of all people.
          I think you need to call him Enoch or Colon Hoss

        • idiot savant

          for the first time I can see Wessell’s coaching and game plan working. The Rebels thrive off quick ball constantly recycling one or two passes off the ruck until the defence is stressed. Although their pack is not as proficient at set piece, they have the best cleanout technique of all the Australian sides, which is what gives them that quick ball. That and Genia’s use of it was the difference tonight. The ponies lost control when Brian and AAA went off.

    • GeorgiaSatellite

      Thor might have something to say to the Vikings. Still…go the ‘Tahs!

  • Tom Galbraith

    Interesting to see field orientation is East-West, first time in SCG history for a union or league match according to Payto.

    • juswal

      The Sydney Morning Herald says “The field has been rotated”, but it’s more likely that the ground team painted new lines.

    • Timbo

      Surely this means there will be ample space out wide? /sarcasm

  • Happyman

    Gents watch out for Lucas he is the real deal. Played very well in QLD club rugby last year and the next step has not been to big for him. My bold prediction is he will step into 10 quite a bit and stitch Spanners up he has that very rare thing that few players have which is time.

    I see the Reds strangling the Tahs forwards leading to pressure followed by points. The main issue is in the loose as we don’t have a fetcher.

    Reds by 7 to 10

  • Brumby Runner

    Starting from the full back spot, have to reach Jed Holloway in the second row before you come across a non-Wallaby in the NSW side. This should point very much to a one-sided contest. Tahs by 25+.

    • RugbyReg

      start at loose head prop then.

      • Hoss

        Brilliant Reg.

  • idiot savant

    I cant see the Reds winning this but it might be closer than the last 9 games between these two sides. The Tahs selection is right for the strategy needed to win. Both Beale and Folau are more lethal in these positions than any other, Hooper defending at 10 with Hunt and AAC in the midfield will ensure no pasaran for the Reds backs, and the mobile forward pack will run the big Queenslanders off their feet. They belted Qld in this fixture last year using their speed.

    The Reds selection and strategy on the other hand has question marks. Their biggest weapon is the scrum which should win penalties so you would think this is actually a game where Stewart should play 10 so he can peel off 60 metres each time. Given that they are playing against rock solid defence and are a big slow side you would think 10 man rugby might be the best strategy against the Tahs. Keep Foley, Folau and Beale in their own half rather than try and run around them with slower players. Use pick and go and try and use the size advantage to score tries in close to the ruck. Last time these two sides played each other the Reds scored 7 tries with Stewart at 10. Actually, has Stewart played 10 this season? I must have missed it.

    The Reds back row will also be outpointed in speed to the breakdown. I notice Fitzpatrick is playing Wells role in the 13 channel and look out when Miller comes on for Hanigan and goes to the other flank. Having two quick forwards committing defenders and offloading on both flanks allows hem to spin the ball from side to side, tiring out the big Red sides of beef, and putting Beale and Folau on course for meat pies on the edge.

    The Reds have shown they have more fight this season so it wont be easy but I think they lack the speed and game plan to win this.

    • disqus_NMX

      I like your analysis IS. The treatment of Stewart has me flummoxed too. Wasn’t he supposed to be the saviour that would leave all of Qld wondering why they ever cared about QC? I’m wondering if he was asked to bend the knee and pray to god, but refused?!

      • idiot savant

        I can only assume its part of the development process they have in mind for him. Either that or McKay doesn’t like him. I reckon hes had about 10 touches as first receiver in 2 games. The rest of the time he has been sprinting to outside centre because Hegarty has just decided he will slot in to first receiver. There has been very few wide shots on TV so I cant tell if hes gone to full back at all. Most of the time he is in the 13 channel.

        • Adrian

          Unfortunately he was a very good #7 in Australian schoolboys, but considered too small in Queensland where men are men.
          Good all-round skills, but much too slow with his passing.
          Great defence, good boot etc.
          I think he’d get bigger bickies in League

        • idiot savant

          I think Stewart will develop into a good 10. He actually has very quick hands and a great pass. His lighting fast inside ball put Kerevi away for his big line break against the Crusaders and his one handed quick pass to Sorovi while carrying two defenders was instrumental in the Rodda try against the Highlanders. I think Thorn is playing hard task master with him at the moment.

      • Adrian

        I don’t think he is an altar boy if that’s what you’re saying

        • disqus_NMX

          Ha ha no it wasn’t, but good call

  • Kiwi rugby lover

    Thanks Oliver. I’m not sure the 15 on 15 will matter as much as the 12 & 13 vs 12 & 13 and I think the Reds have too much speed at 13 and rugby bounce at 12. Either way it’s going to be great. I think Reds but by a couple only

  • Mart

    Waratahs backline to have too much class.
    Where’s the Saffa lock? Geeze it’d be good to have some forwards playing in position

    • Adrian

      All other Tah locks injured including big Boer. Only backrowers on bench. Except forwards to try and force Qld forwards to run a lot

      • Andy

        What happened to Wells? Was the most improved last year.

        • Adrian

          In 7s I think

      • idiot savant

        Youre right about the run the forwards off their feet strategy. Thats what the Crusaders tried to do. The Saders threw a lot of bad passes because they were playing to a plan of fastest possible ball movement designed to exhaust the big Qld players. They also dropped a lot of ball partly for that reason and partly because the reds forwards were very physical. There were a couple of occasions where they dropped the ball because they could see Scott Young or Lukhan lining them up. Every side that has any brains will play this way against the Reds. Razor’s brains trust obviously studied the way the Reds really struggled against the Sunwolves who put 60 points on and the Tahs who walked in some tries playing fast ball last year.


    If I was the Reds I would simply kick structured high ball plays at Beale at FB. Easily his biggest weakness! Tahs by plenty…..

  • Andy

    Good to see the dust brothers at 12 and 15 in their correct positions.

    Now just need to get the forwards right. Not too sure we can fit another 6 in there…..

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