Naiyaravoro to start in Canberra

Super Rugby
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman in Japan

Giant NSW winger Taqele Naiyaravoro has been thrown into the Waratahs' starting team to face the Brumbies.

Naiyaravoro scored two spectacular tries against the Rebels a fortnight ago, and his showing has been rewarded with promotion to the starting side, with Waratahs coach Daryl Gibson hoping he can make that same impact from the get go.

"We're looking for that impact that he provides us off the bench, and we're giving him an opportunity to do it for a lot longer time," he said.

"We'll see how he goes."

Naiyaravoro's switch sees Curtis Rona moved into the centres, where he played most of his Super Rugby season in 2017, while Lalakai Foketi drops to the bench.

"It was very close between Lalakai and Curtis," Gibson said.

"Curtis, his statistics are really good, he's one of our most dangerous players and (we're) giving him an opportunity to see what he can do at 13.

Curtis Rona will start at 13 for the Waratahs. Photo: Getty Images"One of the things that we've been trying to get this year is go-forward, with Naiyaravoro in that line up, (it) provides us with an opportunity to use him as more of a go-forward option and then also Curtis,looking to see what he can do in that position around go-forward.

"It's one of the things we've been struggling with is getting good gain line, so part of our strategy is making sure that we can do that effectively."

Israel Folau will be kept on the wing again, with Gibson making no attempt to shy away from their desire to exploit his skills in the air on attack and defence.

"Every team has to have a point of difference," he said.

"For us, we've got one of the best aerial catchers in the world and we need to employ that tactic to force teams to try and counter that (and) off the back of that, try and look for opportunities," he said.

"For us, it's not only looking for Israel in defensive positions catching the ball, but also forward positions. Something we haven't utilised in the past but it's a tactic we'll continue to keep using."

Jake Gordon returns at starting nine, after missing the Rebels match with a concussion, while Nick Phipps is still sidelined with a calf injury, a recovery to which the Waratahs are taking a cautious approach.

Though it's only round seven, Saturday's derby will be a critical one for both sides in an increasingly tight Australian conference and Gibson admitted he expected that to show in Canberra.

"For the Australian derbies, the conference is incredibly tight," he said.

 

"It makes every away game that you play an opportunity to get points.

 

"It looks like every team will be strong at home.

 

"It's going to be exactly what the organisers wanted for the competition, a very competitive conference, returning to the derbies being competitive and fierce and I see this one being no different."

The Waratahs take on the Brumbies on Saturday night at GIO Stadium, kicking off at 7:45pm AEDT. Buy tickets here.

TEAM

Waratahs team to face the Brumbies

1. Tom Robertson (31)

2. Damien Fitzpatrick (35)

3. Sekope Kepu (111)

4. Ned Hanigan (19)

5. Rob Simmons (2)

6. Michael Wells (19)

7. Michael Hooper (84, captain)

8. Jed Holloway (27)

9. Jake Gordon (35)

10. Bernard Foley (91, vice-captain)

11. Taqele Naiyaravoro (36)

12. Kurtley Beale (114)

13. Curtis Rona (4)

14. Israel Folau (79)

15. Bryce Hegarty (16)

Reserves

16. Hugh Roach (33)

17. Harry Johnson-Holmes (4)

18. Paddy Ryan (95)

19. Tom Staniforth (4)

20. Will Miller (3)

21. Mitchell Short (2)

22. Lalakai Foketi (4)

23. Alex Newsome (4)