Waratahs centres will continue to chop and change in 2019

Super Rugby
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

The Waratahs will chop and change their centre combinations depending on their opponent, according to assistant Chris Whitaker.

Kurtley Beale and Karmichael Hunt teamed up in the midfield against the Sunwolves after Beale sat out round one.

Hunt was impressive in his first start at 13 in four years, switching from 12,earning plenty of praise from attack coach Chris Whitaker on Monday.

Beale is still likely to be the first-choice 12 but with Wallabies being rested in a World Cup year and the option of Hunt playing in either spot, Whitaker said they wouldn’t be locked into one duo.

“The beauty that we've got at the moment is depth,” Whitaker said.

"We've got Kurtley who can play there, Karmichael who obviously can play there, we've got Lalakai (Foketi) who's out injured at the moment so with the season being so long and with the world Cup involved I'd dare say we're probably going to use a few different combinations but Kurtley at 12 obviously gives us that ability to be able to move that ball around and get the ball into space,” he said.

“I think what we have to do and what we want to do is use each player and use their strengths of their game and Kurtley's strength is playing with the ball, finding space and creating things for other people and it's definitely something he did really well against the Sunwolves.

Adam Ashley-Cooper is another 13 option, having played there in round one, while Lalakai Foketi is still returning from a hamstring injury but would also be a possible outside centre choice.

Foketi isn’t expected to be available for the Waratahs’ next game, against the Queensland Reds at the SCG, with Nick Phipps also set to miss another week with a calf injury.

The Waratahs will also find out on MOnday night whether hooker Tolu Latu will sit out any matches after being cited by SANZAAR on Sunday evening.

Latu was cited for foul play in the 79th minute of their 31-30 win over the Sunwolves but was not penalised at the time.

Whitaker said the coaches weren’t aware of the incident until the citing came through on Sunday.

“I haven't really looked into it too much,” he said.

“It goes ahead tonight and I suppose we'll make a decision on what happens after the result comes out tonight,” he said

“I wasn't aware of it until they told us he's been cited.

“So, it goes ahead tonight and we find out what the outcome is and we decide what to do from there.”

Latu has found himself in disciplinary hot water plenty of times in recent seasons, having been twice yellow carded in Tests last year and suspended in 2016 for punching Matt Toomua, though the side was able to argue that a club game in their bye would count towards that.

Whitaker said there was no concern over Latu’s disciplinary record after this latest citing.

“It's part and parcel of rugby, isn’t iit? It’'s a contact sport and sometimes it's a fine line between when the ball's in, when the ball's out, what's legal, what's not,” he said.

“We're lucky to have a good squad nad we've got two quality guys behind him in Andrew Tuala and JP Sauni so we've got guys there to cover it so it's not an issue.”

JP Sauni and Andrew Tuala are two options to be drafted into the team should Latu be suspended.

Both are likely to play in a match on Friday for the Emerging Waratahs, against a touring Auckland team, a game that could give them an opportunity to push their claims.

The Waratahs have a Super Rugby bye this week before taking on Queensland at the SCG on March 9.