Phil Kearns (64)
The situation with injuries is covered in todays SMH:
MELBOURNE are feeling the pressure after coach Rod Macqueen suggested that NSW should be installed favourites for the Super Rugby title, says Waratahs skipper Phil Waugh.
Macqueen's amusingly timed advice for bookmakers hardly came as a shock to the NSW camp, who have yet to win a Super title since the tournament's inception in 1996.
''They are trying to deflect pressure off themselves,'' Waugh said. ''It's a big night for them, they fought very hard to get the licence down in Melbourne. There is a lot of talk about them, probably more so in Sydney. They have been filling our papers, so there is a lot of pressure on them.''
''It is a big test for us and we've been aware of that,'' he said. ''The Waratahs are full of Wallabies, they're a side that has played together for quite a few years and so they're getting better at what they're doing.
''I think that they deserve to be favourites this year in the Super competition, probably of all the Super teams.''
But Waugh said Kiwi juggernauts the Crusaders, along with South Africa's Bulls and Stormers, deserved their rankings as the favourites among bookies.
''In four of five weeks we will look at the table and see how well things are going,'' Waugh said.
Macqueen added: ''We're really not looking beyond the first game.
''That might sound surprising, but that's going to give us a better idea as to where we stand and I think that after that we'll be setting goals and sorting ourselves out from there. We've said from day one we want to be competitive … but we'll be more specific as far as the points we'll be looking to get in the ensuing weeks.''
NSW named a 25-man squad for the game, which will be cut to 22 today after fitness tests on No.8 Wycliff Palu, centre Rob Horne and prop Benn Robinson. ''Rob [Horne] got some good game time in the curtain-raiser last week and came through that well, and we've also had Tom Carter, Ryan Cross and Lachie Turner who have performed well in the centres,'' NSW coach Chris Hickey said.
''We need to make sure his return comes at the right time.
''Benn Robinson hasn't featured in the trials with the calf strain he picked up a few weeks ago, but he's completed all the rehab and passed all the tests that have been asked of him, so we're pretty confident there.
''Cliffy [Palu] is one we need to keep an eye on with the hamstring injury he picked up in Nowra. We have to be mindful that he's coming back from a serious knee injury as well and has been out for 10 months, but he's also one of the best players in the world in his position and can have a huge impact on any match he's involved in.''
Meanwhile, Queensland Reds coach Ewen McKenzie says his team is not interested in retaining underdogs status after last year's breakout performances.
The Reds, perennial underachievers in the tournament, earned a wave of new fans with their creative and exciting displays in 2010 and want to establish themselves as genuine contenders this season, starting against the Western Force on Sunday at Suncorp Stadium.
''It will be a big home game and a great opportunity to get out there in front of the fans since last year,'' McKenzie said. ''It will be a big game, a big occasion and we have to make sure we get it right.
''We are not in interested in being the underdog, other teams can go out there and try and grab that space - they can have it.''