Waratahs coach Daryl Gibson is confident playmaker Bernard Foley is completely clear of concussion symptoms, naming him to start against the Hurricanes on Friday night.
Foley was ruled out of last week’s clash against the Crusaders, with what was believed to be a recurrence of concussion symptoms, but Gibson said Thursday his post-game struggles were more linked to a neck problem from the Rebels game.
“I’m feeling very comfortable about Bernard’s situation,” Gibson said.
“The neurologist has given a clearance and the symptoms he’s experiencing aren’t concussion related and so it's the neck and other things.
“He can’t do any more damage, which is comforting for both player and coach.
“It’s a difficult situation that Bernard obviously played his first game for five weeks (against the Rebels), it (his neck) can get a little sore from bumps and bruises so determining what is concussion related symptoms and what’s not (is hard).
“The good news is he’s been given that clearance and he’s really keen to play.”
As reported earlier in the week, Taqele Naiyaravoro will start on the wing, but there won’t be the mouth-watering clash with powerful All Blacks winger Julian Savea, the latter left out of the Hurricanes matchday 23.
“It would’ve been a big collision, they’re both exciting players,” Gibson said.
“I’m not sure what the Hurricanes’ decisions with their team are, but certainly we’re determined to go over there and make sure we have a great game.”
Michael Wells has edged Jed Holloway for a starting No.8 spot, after making an impact off the bench in recent weeks, with Gibson saying Holloway is still working his way back to top form after a long injury layoff.
Prop Tom Robertson fell a day short of the six days required in his return from concussion, with rookie Sam Needs coming into the 23, adding to a number of young Waratahs who have been blooded in 2017.
“It’s great for Sam Needs - he’s been one of those guys who’s been a squad player, these are the moments he’s been training for,” Gibson said.
“It’s (blooding youth) something all the Australian teams are doing well, it’s the cycle now, it’s something that we need to keep improving and backing.”
The Waratahs will likely be adding more young talent to their list in 2018, with news that Will Skelton has signed a two-year deal with Saracens in the UK.
While the deal leaves the door open for a 2019 Rugby World Cup return, the odds of that would be slim for Skelton.
“He’s a fantastic player who’s been in our team for the last four years and been a great contributor for us,” - Daryl Gibson
“I’m sure it was a tough decision for him, given he’s giving up that dream of going to the World Cup in 2019, so I’m sure he’s weighed up all those factors and made his decision.
“It certainly leaves an opportunity there and a hole for us. The great thing is one man leaves, another opportunity opens up.”
The Waratahs take on the Hurricanes on Friday night, kicking off at 5:35pm AEST, LIVE on FOX SPORTS.
IN: Bernard Foley, Rob Horne, Bryce Hegarty, Sam Needs
OUT: Reece Robinson, Tom Robertson, Irae Simone, Mack Mason
Waratahs team to take on the Hurricanes
1. Paddy Ryan
2. Tolu Latu
3. Sekope Kepu
4. Dean Mumm
5. Will Skelton
6. Ned Hanigan
7. Michael Hooper (c)
8. Michael Wells
9. Jake Gordon
10. Bernard Foley
11. Cam Clark
12. David Horwitz
13. Rob Horne
14. Taqele Naiyaravoro
15. Israel Folau
16. Damien Fitzpatrick
17. Sam Needs
18. David Lolohea
19. David McDuling
20. Jed Holloway
21. Nick Phipps
22. Bryce Hegarty
23. Andrew Kellaway
Hurricanes team to face the Waratahs
1. Ben May
2. Ricky Riccitelli
3. Jeffery Toomaga-Allen
4. Mark Abbott
5. Michael Fatialofa
6. Brad Shields
7. Callum Gibbins
8. Reed Prinsep
9. TJ Perenara
10. Beauden Barrett
11. Wes Goosen
12. Ngani Laumape
13. Matt Proctor
14. Cory Jane
15. Jordie Barrett
16. Leni Apisai,
17. Chris Eves
18. Mike Kainga
19. Vaea Fifita
20. Toa Halafihi
21. Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi
22. Otere Black
23. Vince Aso