UPDATE: "He's an outstanding footballer": Penney backs Harris to make Super Rugby AU stamp on debut

Super Rugby - AU
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Waratahs coach Rob Penney expects Friday night's Super Rugby AU opener to be the first of many NSW caps for rookie no. 8 Will Harris.

Harris will debut at no. 8, alongside Lachie Swinton and Michael Hooper in the NSW backrow, pushing World Cup Wallaby Jack Dempsey to the bench.

The Junior Wallaby has been one of the most exciting prospects in the schools and U20s programs in recent seasons and Penney backed Harris to make his stamp on the competition immediatley.

"I think anyone that's seen Will Harris play will understand he's an outstanding footballer, he's got a great work rate, is a very good decision maker and is someone that is going to come on quickly, we think, and establish himself into this level of rugby quite quickly," he said.

"He's got good intelligence, good emotional intelligence, leadership potential, there are a lot of qualities to like about Will."

Penney has consistently backed inexperienced players, through necessity at times but also over more seasoned veterans, and this round one team reflects that policy.

A host of changes were already flagged earlier this week when Injuries to Lalakai Foketi, Karmichael Hunt, Jake Gordon and Tom Robertson were confirmed but that quartet is just the start.

Ned Hanigan will play his first game of 2020 after ongoing concussion issues, teaming up with captain Rob Simmons in the locks.

Junior Wallaby Joey Walton and Alex Newsome will combine in a new midfield pairing and Jack Maddocks has been picked at 15, as expected.

Will Harrison has clearly established himself as the no. 1 flyhalf for the Waratahs and he will have an immediate litmus test against Reds 10 James O'Connor.

"Will had a tremendous start to Super Rugby and for Will the areas of the game around game management is the next step up," he said.

"He’s got all the skills, all the technical elements you want in your 10, he’s just got to develop the technical components to go with that now.

"James O'Connor has been world-class, played across the back line for Australia at international level and played many clubs and he’s sort of at the other end of the spectrum.

'It’s a great opportunity for Will. The more Will plays against people of different styles and experiences, the better. Great chance for Will to test himself against a world-class player."

Junior Wallabies centre Joey Walton will combine with new vice-captain Alex Newsome in the midfield on Friday night and Penney expected the youngster to bring a valuable dose of energy.

"Joe is an energiser bunny," he said.

"He’s got a lot of really good traits that midfielders need.

"An unrelenting work ethic, great passion and desire to win and he’s got a skill set that provides us with a run, kick, pass option.

"We’re excited about what Joey is going to bring to that area.

"Of course he’s not the finished product yet and he’s outside another young star in Will Harrison but it’s a great opportunity to give these boys a chance and see if they can make that step up.

"We’ve got full faith they can."

The fresh faces continue on the bench with Sydney Uni hooker Tom Horton coming into the reserves and Tiaan Tauakipulu, Tepai Moeroa also in line for their first Waratahs appearances.

NSW have won their past 11 clashes against Queensland in Super Rugby.

Queensland named their side on Wednesday for the clash, bringing Fraser Mcreight into the starting side for the first time.

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.


Waratahs to face the Reds

1. Angus Bell

2. Robbie Abel

3. Harry Johnson-Holmes

4. Ned Hanigan

5. Rob Simmons (C)

6. Lachlan Swinton

7. Michael Hooper

8. Will Harris

9. Mitch Short

10. Will Harrison

11. Mark Nawaqanitawase

12. Joey Walton

13. Alex Newsome (Vc)

14. James Ramm

15. Jack Maddocks


16. Tom Horton

17. Tetera Faulkner

18. Tiaan Tauakipulu

19. Tom Staniforth

20. Jack Dempsey

21. Michael Mcdonald

22. Ben Donaldson

23. Tepai Moeroa