Waratahs backrow buzzing to make impact

Super Rugby
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

There’s a new breed of backrowers at the Waratahs and they’re ready to answer Daryl Gibson’s call.

Michael Hooper will be the lone experienced head in the backrow come Saturday’s match against the Force, with Jack Dempsey and Michael Wells either side of him and rookie Brad Wilkin on the bench.

Dempsey said he felt ready to answer Gibson’s challenge for the younger generation to step up, equipped with renewed experience as one of four development players on last year’s Wallabies Spring Tour.

“We've been waiting for a couple of years behind, personally, I've been behind guys like Dave Dennis, Wycliff Palu, watching them, learning off them and Hoops as well and Daryl's made it clear that this year's going to be a year for a lot of us to really have a crack,” he said.

“The things I learned (on Spring Tour) around the set piece for me, personally, were really eye opening.

“We can take that into the Waratahs' culture and prepare a lot better and train at that next level.”

Dempsey had a taste of captaincy in the preseason,in the side’s Mudgee trial against the Brumbies, but won’t be trying to leap into any official leadership spots anytime soon.

‘I was definitely caught off guard by that one,” he said.

Jack Dempsey learned a lot from an end-of-year tour with the Wallabies. Photo: RUGBY.com.au/Stuart Walmsley

“Obviously we've got one of the best skippers here in the country and Dave Dennis who's just left, one of the best ones we've had at the club.

“I’ve had a lot of guys to learn off, so it wasn't too hard to go out there and do that.”

The Waratahs are battling injuries in the backrow department with last year’s starting eight, Jed Holloway (hamstring), ruled out until at least round four, opening the door for Ned Hanigan to make a switch from the second row.

“It's already an area where there's a high attrition rate around injury and we're already a little thin,” Gibson said.

“I think you may see someone like Ned Hanigan, who can play at six or eight potentially get into that spot if we have any injuries.”

Hooper has led the way when it comes to attacking flankers and Gibson said fans could expect that from all of their backrowers, who are potent when it comes to scoring.

“Certainly I see very much that backrow as the new breed, the new energy that's going to fuel our team,” Gibson said.

“I see those three players in particular (Brad Wilkin, Jack Dempsey, Jed Holloway) as backrowers who are like backs and we're going to play a game that really tries to harness those strengths.

“So, you'll see a lot of Jack and those loose forwards out on those wide channels really creating havoc.”