Jake Gordon was rested for the Waratahs’ critical derby against the Queensland Reds but coach Daryl Gibson says the rookie scrumhalf is their first-choice nine.
Gibson said the move to leave Gordon out against the Reds was simply a rotation decision, with Wallabies backup Nick Phipps starting and Matt Lucas on the bench.
True to his word last week, Gibson has put Gordon back in the starting lineup, one of four changes to the XV from the Reds game.
Phipps was one of the Waratahs’ best against Queensland, but his performance wasn’t enough to usurp his fellow Sydney Uni halfback.
“Jake’s been very good for us. Right now, I still believe he’s the number one halfback,” Gibson said.
“Nick is closing the gap, there’s no doubt about that and it was probably one of his best performances. I want to get the best out of all three, I believe in all three.
“Matt Lucas is an excellent player, he could easily slip into that position as well. SO, for us to get the best is creating that competition and tension for selection.”
The move creates intrigue around Wallabies selections in June, with Phipps the incumbent understudy to Will Genia, and rated highly by Test coach Michael Cheika.
Gordon was a late inclusion to the recent Wallabies camp in Canberra, along with Phipps and the Brumbies’ Joe Powell.
Regardless of who plays nine, Gibson said they’d be sticking with a strategy that minimises its box kicks, a move the Waratahs mentor foreshadowed ahead of the Kings loss.
“Our box kick numbers have declined and so have the tries that we’ve conceded," he said.
"We’ve realized that’s not a strategy for us, we’ve changed our strategy around what we do in that area and it’s paying the dividends."
Their centre matchup could prove defining, with David Horwitz and Rob Horne facing off against All Blacks George Moala and Sonny Bill Williams, an area where defensive lapses would be found out.
“In the grand scheme of things both George Moala and Sonny Bill in the middle there pose a big threat,” Gibson said.
“As always their back three, they’ve always had an excellent X-factor type game where they can do anything out of nothing.
“We need to be mindful of that, make sure we get our defence sorted. They’ve got threats across the park.
“The key for us is making sure we’ve got threats of our own and so making sure we can throw something at them.”
The Waratahs take on the Blues at Allianz Stadium on Saturday night, kicking off at 7:45pm AEST LIVE on FOX SPORTS and via radio on RUGBY.com.au.