Waratahs cop backline injury blows ahead of Super Rugby AU opener

Super Rugby - AU
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

A young Waratahs backline will look even younger on Friday night with a trio of experienced backs ruled of NSW's opener.

Jake Gordon, Lalakai Foketi and Karmichael Hunt are all battling hamstring injuries that will keep them out of Friday's clash with the Reds.

Prop Tom Robertson (back) will also sit out the first clash, though the Wallaby has been working his way back into full training in recent weeks.

With Kurtley Beale departing NSW before the Super Rugby AU competition, the team's rookies will be shouldering even more responsibility.

Will Harrison is all but certain to take the reins at flyhalf after starting every match there before the season shutdown.

Jack Maddocks looms as the frontrunner to take over from Beale at fullback, a position the former Rebel knows well.

Harrison's long time junior teammate Ben Donaldson is in the mix to be part of the 23, while fellow rising star Joey Walton shapes as a contender for a midfield spot with both Foketi and Hunt out.

Mitch Short replaced Gordon when the latter was out with injury earlier this year and attack coach Chris Whitaker said he would be at the top of the list again, with former Junior Wallaby Michael McDonald not far behind.

Attack coach Chris Whitaker said he had faith in the team's youngsters to step up and fill the void.

"One thing we've learnt out of this break is a lot of those young guys have really put their hand up." Whitaker said

"There's going to be some interesting selection dilemmas for (head coach) Rob (Penney) when it's time to choose a team.

"You've got the guys who played (in Super Rugby earlier this season) making their debut (five-eighth) Will Harrison, (outside back) Mark Nawaqanitawase.

"Now you've got (five-eighth) Ben Donaldson (centre) Joey Walton, so there's plenty of opportunities there and we've got a couple of sevens guys Nick Malouf and the other Angus Bell who have have both trained really well."

In more posiitve news, Ned Hanigan is in line to play his first match of the season after battling concussion symptoms in the opening rounds of the year.

The Waratahs will name their team for Friday night's clash on Wednesday morning.

More to come.

The Waratahs take on the Reds on Friday July 3 at Suncorp Stadium, kicking off at 7:05pm AEST, LIVE on Foxtel, Foxtel Now and Kayo Sports. Buy a Kayo subscription here.