Waratahs backline still a mystery

Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

The composition of the Waratahs backline has been an intriguing talking point over summer and head coach Daryl Gibson says the mystery is not likely to be solved anytime soon.

Gibson believes starting flyhalf Bernard Foley looms as the missing piece for the NSW franchise, with the 26-year-old returning from Japan's Top League at the end of the month.

“I think without our two flyhalves - Bernard Foley and another -returning from Japan, we're without a real playmaker there,” he said.

“We've got a few guys filling in at the moment so once Bernard comes back I think we'll be far more complete.”                   

Gibson said the Waratahs were looking overseas for Foley's understudy, with an announcement to be made in the coming weeks.

“I think given the makeup of our squad we're quite short of an understudy to Bernard Foley,” he said.

“We're looking at a number of options. Hopefully they'll be named in the next week.

“We really want someone who's a good all-rounder.”

The hunt for another playmaker will be critical, Gibson said, with Foley set to play almost a full year of Rugby between Tests, Japanese Top League stints and Super Rugby, admitting the ideal situation would be to ease Foley through the season, to avoid the risk of burning him out.

"Until he gets back we won't know what conditions he's in and it would be nice to have a luxury where we could actually pull him out of rugby for a bit."

In the meantime, utility Kurtley Beale is being trialled in a number of positions, with Gibson keen to see where he fits best.

Gibson also reiterated his interest in Israel Folau switching to outside centre, one of a number of options for the side.

"With the backline options, we've got great flexibility and until we really get Bernard back on board I don't really know how I'm going to configure that," he said.

"As I've said previously I'm interested in seeing how Folau would go up front and I'm interested to see how Beale will go at 10 and 15.

"So I've got a number of options that I'm looking at."

Folau is set to return to training next week after off-season ankle surgery and has his sights on playing in the final Waratahs trial game on February 19, giving him a month to be Super Rugby ready.