TEAM NEWS: "They're ready to go" - Penney backs youth for Super Rugby opener

Super Rugby
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Waratahs coach Rob Penney has backed rookie flyhalf Will Harrison and a handful of other youngsters to take the Super Rugby step in their season opener against the Crusaders on Saturday.

Harrison will take the reins at 10 for the first time in Super Rugby, after playing well in the two preseason trials, with Penney putting his faith in the tough 10 to shine.

"First of all, he's got a great skill set. He's also very tough individual," he said.

"He's got good resilience but physically he's a robust character, puts himself in tough positions.

"He'll put his head in dark places and he's prepared to do that for the team which is a fantastic attribute for someone defending in the inside channels and maybe having to do the odd hard carry on the inside channels."

Harrison has seen some big stages in the past, steering the Junior wallabies to a World Rugby U20s final in Argentina last year and followed that up with his trial form.

Will Harrison will take the playmaking reins at the Waratahs in round one. Photo: Getty IMagesThere aren't many bigger stages than against the Crusaders at home, where they have won their past 31 matches, but Penney said he was confident Harrison would take things in his stride.

"He's a very open individual so looking to improve and learn and grow and he's also someone with a string enough character that he's willing and able to take responsibility," he said.

"We're not expecting a performance that you would be without error on the weekend because he's being thrust into a pretty tumultuous position but we trust that he'll do a really good job.

"That's the first stage of a young developing 10 and the only way you can get experience and grow and develop is to get game time.

"We've got a lot of similar thoughts around Mack (Mason) as well so it'll be an interesting battle in the short term anyway.

Fellow rookie Mark Nawaqanitawase will start on the wing after his super preseason while Angus Bell and Carlo Tizzano will be blooded off the bench.

Penney said he had seen signs from the youngsters he picked that they would be ready.

"They're ready to go," he said.

"We wouldn't have compromised their development.

Mark Nawaqanitawase is another young gun having an opportunity this weekend. Photo: Getty Images"If we didn't believe they were of stern enough stuff mentally or physically then we wouldn't put them into that position, we wouldn't compromise them.

"There's still two or three young men that haven't been given access. They're chewing at the bit to get a chance but they're deemed to be not in that same situation as being able to handle the next level up yet.

"This young group have got the opportunity to step across the threshold and give it a go and see what happens.

Kurtley Beale will start at fullback against the Crusaders, with Karmichael Hunt and Lalakai Foketi in the centres and Jack Maddocks coming off the bench.

In the pack, Robbie Abel has been given the starting nod over Damien Fitzpatrick while Lachie Swinton will start at six over Jack Dempsey.

Harry Johnson-Holmes (illness), Ned Hanigan (concussion) and Mason (groin) are all unavailable for the clash.

The Waratahs take on the Crusaders on Saturday February 1 in Nelson, kicking off at 7:05pm local, 5:05pm AEDT, LIVE on FOX SPORTS, kayo and via RUGBY.com.au RADIO. 

TEAM

Waratahs to face the Crusaders

1. Tom Robertson

2. Robbie Abel

3. Tetera Faulkner

4. Tom Staniforth

5. Rob Simmons (C)

6. Lachlan Swinton

7. Michael Hooper

8. Jed Holloway

9. Jake Gordon

10. Will Harrison

11. Alex Newsome

12. Karmichael Hunt

13. Lalakai Foketi

14. Mark Nawaqanitawase

15. Kurtley Beale

Reserves

16. Damien Fitzpatrick

17. Angus Bell

18. Chris Talakai

19. Ryan Mccauley

20. Jack Dempsey

21. Carlo Tizzano

22. Mitch Short

23. Jack Maddocks