Folau returns, Waratahs wary of battling Blues

Super Rugby
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Waratahs coach Daryl Gibson says he's not 'buying into any rubbish' about the Blues, ahead of their Brookvale Oval clash.

The Blues haven't beaten a New Zealand team since February 2016, and sit on the bottom of the New Zealand conference, having been ravaged by injuries this season.

Tana Umaga's team will welcome three players back into the side for Saturday's match and Gibson said he wasn't being drawn into suggestions they were vulnerable.

"I'm not buying into that rubbish," he said.

"Everyone's got their challenges, the Blues are going through theirs.

"I look at us, we're coming off a belting, 29-nil, we're still working out how that happened, learning the lessons from that and still seething from it.

"We want to make sure we respond well and we'll get that opportunity this week."

Israel Folau is the big name returning for the Waratahs, slotting into fullback rather than the wing, where we had impressed before straining a hamstring in Canberra against the Brumbies.

Cam Clark was impressive for the Tahs. Photo; RUGBY.com.au/Stuart WalmsleyCam Clark and Lalakai Foketi also come into the starting side for the match, with Curtis Rona and Bryce Hegarty on the bench, and Gibson foreshadowing more reshuffles in a make-or-break block of matches for the Waratahs.

"We are entering a really competitive phase of our year and I really want to share that around and give guys opportunities to contribute," he said.

"We've kept largely the same team, been very fortunate with injuries this season and I don't want guys to be disheartened because they're not getting a run.

"I'm making a real strong commitment to them that things are going to be different over the next few weeks."

Will Miller comes back into the starting for the Blues clash as well, playing at blindside flanker, as the Waratahs opt for speed against the Blues.

Gibson said he had no concerns over the Brookvale Oval surface, which has been investigated by the NRL's Manly Sea Eagles after a number of their players suffered serious knee injuries on the ground.

The Waratahs completed their own assessment of the ground this week and opted against moving their match away from the northern beaches.

"We're not concerned by that surface," Gibson said.

"Obviously we've done our checks and so forth. It's really unfortunate to have recurrent ACLs, no one wants that, but we're confident the surface will be fine."

The Waratahs take on the Blues on Saturday night, kicking off at 7:45pm AEST, LIVE on FOX SPORTS and via RUGBY.com.au RADIO. Buy tickets here.

TEAMS

IN: Israel Folau, Cam Clark

OUT: Nick Palmer, Alex Newsome 

Waratahs to face the Blues

1. Tom Robertson

2. Damien Fitzpatrick

3. Sekope Kepu

4. Ned Hanigan

5. Rob Simmons

6. Will Miller

7. Michael Hooper

8. Michael Wells

9. Jake Gordon

10. Bernard Foley

11. Taqele Naiyaravoro

12. Kurtley Beale

13. Lalakai Foketi

14. Cam Clark

15. Israel Folau

Reserves

16. Hugh Roach

17. Harry Johnson-Holmes

18. Paddy Ryan

19. Tom Staniforth

20. Jed Holloway

21. Nick Phipps

22. Curtis Rona

23. Bryce Hegarty

Blues to face the Waratahs

1. Ross Wright

2. James Parsons

3. Sione Mafileo

4. Patrick Tuipulotu

5. Gerard Cowley-Tuioti

6. Jerome Kaino

7. Dalton Papalii

8. Akira Ioane

9. Augustine Pulu

10. Stephen Perofeta

11. Caleb Clarke

12. Rieko Ioane

13. Orbyn Leger

14. Tumua Manu

15. Matt Duffie

Reserves

16. Matt Moulds

17. Pauliasi Manu

18. Mike Tamoaieta

19. Been Nee-Nee

20. Murphy Taramai

21. Jonathan Ruru

22. Dan Kirkpatrick

23. Terence Hepetema