NSW Waratahs coach Daryl Gibson has made three changes to the starting side ahead of Saturday night’s Vodafone Super Rugby clash against the Blues at Brookvale Oval.
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Gibson has upped the pace of the forward pack, once again pairing recent re-signing Will Miller, from Berry, with captain Michael Hooper at openside and Michael Wells at number eight.
Kurtley Beale will be joined by Lalakai Foketi in the centres, while winger Cam Clark is set to make his first start of the year in sky blue.
“I’ve opted in the loose forwards to go with speed with Will Miller and Michael Hooper,” Gibson said.
“In the backline, I’ve given some opportunities to Lalakai Foketi at 13 and to Cam Clark, who will make his first start of the 2018 season.
“This means that Israel [Folau] will start at fullback.”
Folau will play his first Vodafone Super Rugby game since round seven, where he came off the field with a hamstring injury.
The 29-year-old’s selection in the match-day 23, alongside Clark, means Bryce Hegarty and Curtis Rona will make their impacts off the bench in round 12.
“I’m pleased to see the team have done so well without him (Folau) and it’s great to have him back,” Gibson said.
“He brings a lot in terms of a different attacking dimension to us and that four weeks in which he’s been away has been a good opportunity for him to get his body right and get his mind back into footy.”
“It’s around finding the best mix and that’s what I felt was right for this game.”
“We’re still working out how that happened (against the Lions), still learning lessons from it and we’re still seething from it.
“We want to make sure we respond well to that and we’ll get that opportunity this weekend.”
The NSW Waratahs charity round match at Brookvale Oval against the Blues will kick-off at 7.40pm.
Waratahs squad: 1. Tom Robertson, 2. Damien Fitzpatrick, 3. Sekope Kepu, 4. Ned Hanigan, 5. Rob Simmons, 6. Will Miller, 7. Michael Hooper ©, 8. Michael Wells, 9. Jake Gordon, 10. Bernard Foley (vc), 11. Taqele Naiyaravoro, 12. Kurtley Beale, 13. Lalakai Foketi, 14. Cam Clark, 15. Israel Folau, 16. Hugh Roach, 17. Harry Johnson-Holmes, 18. Paddy Ryan, 19. Tom Staniforth, 20. Jed Holloway, 21. Nick Phipps, 22. Curtis Rona and 23. Bryce Hegarty.
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