HSBC Waratahs’ captain Dave Dennis will return from international duty to lead his state into one of the most historic matches in NSW Rugby history.
One of two Wallabies released for this game by national coach Robbie Deans, Dennis and Test centre Rob Horne will add a valuable 29 caps of Test experience to the courageous young squad that last week defeated a favoured Western Force side in Perth for the first time in Super Rugby history.
With NSW looking to record their first win over the British & Irish Lions since their 18-14 victory in 1959, additional breakdown nous will be provided by the return of combative openside Pat McCutcheon. McCutcheon was expected to captain last week’s side before being withdrawn through injury. Now fully recovered from the knee knock, the club captain and former Australia Sevens captain is the third and final change to last week’s run-on side.
Although still missing 11 international players, the changes mean that Head Coach Michael Cheika has been able to field a side boasting four international players, with 63-cap Wallabies winger Drew Mitchell starting at fullback and prop Paddy Ryan, who made his Test debut in the 2012 Spring Tour against France, playing at tight-head.
The rivalry between NSW and British & Irish Lions dates back 125 years to the teams’ first meeting at the Sydney Cricket Ground on 2 June, 1888 when NSW lost 2-18. Since then, the sides have met a total of 20 times, with the NSW Waratahs recording four victories and one draw. In their last encounter on June 23, 2001 at the Sydney Football Stadium (now called Allianz Stadium), NSW lost 24-41. The NSW Waratahs last beat the Lions 18-14 at the Sydney Sports Ground in 1959.
Relishing the chance to make history, HSBC Waratahs Head Coach Michael Cheika said, “This is a once in a lifetime opportunity and we want it to be something worth remembering. We’re going to go for it, we can’t be looking for a glorious defeat. As a player, you want to say that you played in an international-level fixture and you made something of it.”
Following yesterday’s announcement that Lions coach Warren Gatland had picked a strong side, led by Tour captain Sam Warburton, Cheika added, “We’re playing against a team with a massive artillery. Obviously I’d like to have all our international players available but fair play to the ARU to giving us Dave and Rob back and for releasing Bernard and Matt from the sevens camp.
“We’ve been all about trying to develop a winning attitude, no matter who’s in the jersey. The odds are against us, massively, but we’ll try and buck them. As long as there’s a chance, we’ll take it. Anything in red that moves, we’ll have a crack at. We need to play our game and do it as best we can and see what happens.”
Named on the bench are three Shute Shield players, called into the squad as cover. Whilst Richard Aho and AJ Gilbert made their NSW debuts in last week’s 28-13 win over the Force, if he takes the field, 21-year-old Sydney University prop Sam Talakai will earn his NSW debut. After pushing hard on the selection front, Liam Winton (Sydney University) and Terrence Hepetema (Randwick) have been named as the squad’s 24th and 25th players, in recognition of their contributions to the squad in the lead up to this match.
The HSBC Waratahs v British & Irish Lions match kicks off at 7.30pm AEST this Saturday, June 15 at Sydney’s Allianz Stadium.
NSW fans can follow all the action live on FOX SPORTS or keep up to date with every score live on Twitter by following @NSWWaratahs or searching #WARvLIO.
HSBC Waratahs team to play The British & Irish Lions
Saturday June 15, 2013
Allianz Stadium, Sydney (AEST 7.30pm)
1. Jeremy Tilse (Sydney University, vice captain)
2. John Ulugia (Eastern Suburbs)
3. Paddy Ryan (Sydney University)
4. Will Skelton (Sydney University)
5. Ollie Atkins (Sydney University)
6. Jed Holloway (Southern Districts)
7. Pat McCutcheon (Sydney University)
8. Dave Dennis (Sydney University, captain)
9. Brendan McKibbin (Eastern Suburbs)
10. Bernard Foley (Sydney University, vice captain)
11. Peter Betham (Sydney University)
12. Tom Carter (Sydney University)
13. Rob Horne (Southern Districts)
14. Cam Crawford (Northern Suburbs)
15. Drew Mitchell (Randwick)
16. Luke Holmes (Warringah)
17. Richard Aho (Randwick)*
18. Sam Talakai (Sydney University)**
19. Lopeti Timani (Southern Districts)
20. AJ Gilbert (Northern Suburbs)*
21. Matt Lucas (Manly)
22. Ben Volavola (Southern Districts)
23. Tom Kingston (Sydney University)
* Indicates players from outside the 35-man squad
** Indicates uncapped players
24. Liam Winton (Sydney University)*
25. Terrence Hepetema (Randwick)*
HSBC British & Irish Lions
15. Leigh Halfpenny (Cardiff Blues/Wales)
14. Sean Maitland (Glasgow Warriors/Scotland)
13. Jonathan Davies (Scarlets/Wales)
12. Jamie Roberts (Cardiff Blues/Wales)
11. Simon Zebo (Munster/Ireland)
10. Jonathan Sexton (Leinster/Ireland)
9. Mike Phillips (Bayonne/Wales)
1. Mako Vunipola (Saracens/England)
2. Tom Youngs (Leicester Tigers/England)
3. Adam Jones (Ospreys/Wales)
4. Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys/Wales)
5. Paul O’Connell (Munster/Ireland)
6. Tom Croft (Leicester Tigers/England)
7. Sam Warburton (Cardiff Blues/Wales, capt)
8. Jamie Heaslip (Leinster/Ireland)
16. Richard Hibbard (Ospreys/Wales)
17. Alex Corbisiero (London Irish/England)
18. Dan Cole (Leicester Tigers/England)
19. Geoff Parling (Leicester Tigers/England)
20. Dan Lydiate (Dragons/Wales)
21. Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers/England)
22. Owen Farrell (Saracens/England)
23. Rob Kearney (Leinster/Ireland)