The Waratahs will meet a winless Rebels side in Melbourne on Friday night, but NSW defence coach Nathan Grey says it’s NSW that will be most desperate for a win.
Melbourne pushed the top-of-the-table Chiefs side for much of the game last Friday night and though they might be keen to respond with an emphatic Australian derby, Grey said there would be no concern over the Waratahs’ desire.
“More desperate than us? I don’t think so,” Grey said.
“We’re going down to Melbourne with a real clear focus and a real desperation to play well to win.
“We’ve been playing in fits and starts in terms of the quality of our performance, both sides of the ball and the players and all the coaching staff are really focused on delivering a performance that we can be proud of.”
The Waratahs have put faith in most of their players so far this season, but that looks set to change this weekend after coach Daryl Gibson foreshadowed a reshuffle, starting at scrumhalf.
Scrumhalf Jake Gordon was training in the starting No.9 spot on Tuesday, after making a strong impact off the bench against the Brumbies, replacing Nick Phipps.
“He brings a slightly different skill set around his performance. He hasn’t played a lot at that level, that Super Rugby level,” Grey said.
“You gauge those guys who haven’t played at that level at their training form. He’s been training consistently well for a long time so he’s pushing for that halfback spot.
“We’ve got three quality nines in our squad. We’ll see how things pan out there.” - Nathan Grey
Grey said the time had come to potentially hand chances to other players based on their mid-week form, after a 1-3 start to the year.
“Obviously, the guys who have been training well and constantly sticking their hand up at training, they make us make the hard decisions and they make the coaching staff look at them and look to put them in the side,” he said.
“The guys before them have been performing in fits and starts so if opportunities are created for other guys, we trust them to make sure they grab their opportunity with both hands and we’ll see what goes on from that front.”
Flyhalf Bernard Foley is also a near definite starter after missing the first four matches with concussion.
Though they’ve been positive before, the playmaker looms as the biggest inclusion when the team is named on Wednesday, pending his recovery from Tuesday’s training.
Rookie centre Irae Simone missed training, receiving treatment on a knee issue and though he is unlikely to train on Wednesday, he is expected to be cleared to play, while Israel Folau sat out training but is no danger of missing.
The Waratahs face the Rebels on Friday night, kicking off at 7:45am AEDT LIVE on FOX SPORTS and via radio on RUGBY.com.au.