Hunt, Ashley-Cooper confirmed for round one starts

Super Rugby
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Karmichael Hunt and Adam Ashley-Cooper are confirmed Waratahs starters with Kurtley Beale the first Wallaby rested from Super Rugby ahead of the 2019 Rugby World Cup.

Beale played 31 games last year, the most of any Australian player, and featured in almost every minute of those outings at both Super Rugby and Test level.

He is one of seven Wallabies who were rested from the preseason trials as part of a plan to manage international players ahead of the World Cup but he is the only one who will sit out the Hurricanes clash.

Hunt's performances at training since joining the club last month and in those trial games were enough to give Waratahs coach Daryl Gibson the confidence to keep Beale on ice for one more week.

"He came to us in January, and you never quite know what shape they're in and he presented in excellent shape and very quickly got up to speed and we're very satisfied with where he's at," he said.

"Those (rotation) decisions are all based on the short-term and long-term view on making sure we're getting the best out of our players over 16 games and hopefully 18 if we progress."

It's not the first time Hunt's efforts have propelled him up the pecking order - his attitude is exactly what earned him a Wallabies debut back in the 2017 June Series.

Adam Ashley-Cooper has been thrust straight into a starting role. Photo: RUGBY.com.au/Stuart WalmsleyHunt's combination with Ashley-Cooper is only 10 minutes old but Gibson said their experience made that a non-issue.

"I think they bring a lot of experience," he said.

"The bonus with both of them is the fact they can pick things up very quickly, very much on the same wavelength, talking about the game, that's been very easy."

Ashley-Cooper has only played 40 minutes in the preseason but the option of winger Cam Clark on the bench allows for Curtis Rona to potentially move to 13 should Ashley-Cooper need to be subbed.

While the selection of Ashley-Cooper and Hunt shows the depth the Waratahs might enjoy in the backline, their front row looks far less shored up with two debutants on the bench and rookie loosehead Harry Johnson-Holmes starting alongside Damien Fitzpatrick and Sekope Kepu.

Gibson admitted the bench duo of Chris Talakai and Rory O'Connor had been rushed into Super Rugby calculations earlier than anticipated but there was little point dwelling on that.

"We'll try to bolster that with (Tolu) Latu in the second half, obviously Keps coming back for his first minutes of the year," he said.

"Not slightly where they should be but you've just got to get on with it and do your best."

The Waratahs will be boosted by the round one returns of Kepu, Rob Simmons, Michael Hooper, Bernard Foley, Israel Folau and Latu, who all sat out the team's preseason trials.

Jake Gordon will start at halfback with Nick Phipps (calf) unavailable and Mitch Short will come off the bench.

Jack Dempsey is set to start at no. 8 for the first time in Super Rugby with Ned Hanigan at blindside flanker for the Brookvale Oval clash. 

The Waratahs take on the Hurricanes on Saturday February 16 at Brookvale Oval, kicking off at 7:45pm AEDT, LIVE on FOX SPORTS and via RUGBY.com.au RADIO. Buy tickets here.

TEAM

Waratahs to face the Hurricanes

1. Harry Johnson-Holmes

2. Damien Fitzpatrick

3. Sekope Kepu

4. Jed Holloway

5. Rob Simmons

6. Ned Hanigan

7. Michael Hooper

8. Jack Dempsey

9 .Jake Gordon

10. Bernard Foley

11. Curtis Rona

12. Karmichael Hunt

13. Adam Ashley-Cooper

14. Alex Newsome

15. Israel Folau

Reserves

16. Tolu Latu

17. Rory O’Connor

18. Chris Talakai

19. Lachlan Swinton

20. Will Miller

21. Mitch Short

22. Mack Mason

23. Cam Clark