New-look Waratahs to have first test

Super Rugby
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Waratahs captain Michael Hooper will lead out a vastly different-looking Waratahs side on Thursday night and it's something he will relish.

It’s a team that still has plenty of capped Wallabies, eight in the starting team, but with injuries to players like Jack Dempsey (hamstring) and Nick Phipps (calf), there’s a host of new faces among them.

It’s an element Hooper is embracing in his second full year as captain, with youngsters and recruits bringing different perspective to the club.

“(New faces bring) new ideas, excitement, intent and competition,” he said.

“We've got plenty of competition for spots and nothing's set in stone for the first round.”

Ned Hanigan's whirlwind journey is set to take another step. Photo: WalmsleyHooper has some renewed competition in the flanker spot as well, with Will Miller joining the club in the offseason from Norths.

“(It) always re-energises you, you see someone with really good talent , someone like Will Miller has come in and turned some heads,” he said.

“In his first game, he was really good against the Highlanders, (and) you've got plenty of guys who can play seven within this team and across the backrow there's plenty of competition when everyone's fit, with Jack (Dempsey) coming back and Ned (Hanigan) sorting himself out.

“It's bound to breed some good performances.”

While he said a win would be a handy injection of confidence, Hooper said that wasn’t necessarily the only barometer of success on Thursday night.

“You want to build confidence as far as the outcome's concerned and a win can do that, however we're focusing mostly on how we're looking, what we're doing and trying to get that as close to ready to roll for next week,” he said.

“That's going to be the major marker is how we go in certain situations defence and attack.”

Hooper will be one of seven players in the side for the first time this year, six in the starting side, in what will be a big test for a fledgling forward pack and its first outing under new contact coach Simon Cron.

Norths premiership-winning coach Cron has had a major influence on the side already and Hooper said his mark was already showing.

“Loves the game, he's a student of the game, loves the tape and then the thing I've been most impressed with Simon is his ability to teach,” he said.

“He's got a teaching background, so he can elaborate and really describe to the players what he's looking for.

“For a young squad, I think he's done a fantastic job so far and he's seen success at club level and hoping to do the same here.”

The Waratahs will take on the Rebels at Brookvale Oval on Thursday February 15, kicking off at 6:45pm AEDT.