Five key talking points for the Waratahs heading into Super Rugby Pacific 2022

Fri, 07/01/2022, 05:45 am
Nathan Williamson
by Nathan Williamson
Super Rugby Pacific will be full of action, featuring the best of the Southern Hemisphere

The Waratahs are treating 2022 as a new era after disappointing performances over the past 12 months.

A combination of injuries and heartbreaking defeats saw the side finish Super Rugby AU with zero wins, eventually leading to the departure of Rob Penney.

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This carried into Trans-Tasman as their mounting injury toll and their inexperienced side failed to match it with the best of the Kiwis as they ended 2021 without a victory.

However, a new coach and the return of Michael Hooper has many hopeful it was a one-off as they enter this year carrying no expectations behind them.

With this in mind, Rugby.com.au looks at the five key talking points for the Waratahs ahead of Super Rugby Pacific.

1.Reset

Reset '22 is the motto emblazoned across the Waratahs' website and social media heading into the year and it probably best describes what the club needs.

It's been touched on before but you can make a fair argument no Australian team across professional sport, let alone Rugby Union, was affected more by injuries than the Waratahs.

Whilst it's never used as an excuse, when you have more than a full starting XV on the sidelines by the end of the year, that's going to make any side significantly weaker.

This doesn't defend the fact they should have closed out at least two games during Super Rugby AU, only needing to hit their mark at lineout time to defeat the Force in round seven.

They can't afford another year like 2021 and need an early victory to dispel any demons and scars from past years.

2. Coleman's chances to shine

Darren Coleman finally gets his chance to coach a Super Rugby side, taking on a major rebuild.

This is what Coleman does best, having turned around several clubs into contenders at the Shute Shield level before winning an MLR title with the Giltinis.

His influence has already been felt by players, who have spoken nothing but praise for his work ethic and attitude towards turning the side into eventual contenders.

He knows the process isn't a simple one year fix, however, has already recognised the need to start winning to get fans believing in the process.

3. Hoops is home

Hooper’s sabbatical to Japan and the effects it had on the Waratahs is not talked about enough.

He is the heart, soul and about three different organs in that side and his leadership was seriously missed by the young squad.

This was clear to see during the international season as Hooper found himself nominated for World Rugby's Player of the Year after several MOTM performances for the Wallabies.

Hooper returns alongside Ned Hanigan and Jed Holloway and will provide some much-needed experience in the forward pack.

4. Best mates battle

Will Harrison or Ben Donaldson, how do you fit them in?

The main battle for the 'Tahs looms at flyhalf for both standouts with trials set to be crucial for a pair of playmakers with the potential to play for Wallabies.

But where does Tane Edmed fit into this? The Eastwood standout will push the pair until the end and has already received praise from Coleman.

Coleman has indicated he may move one of them to 12 or 15, setting up an exciting combination for the future.

5. Building for the future

The Waratahs' build to the future starts off the field with the finalisation of a new home ground and high-performance facility.

Both are expected to be ready to go in the second half of the year so it's important the foundations in the squad start representing what's happening at Moore Park and Daceyville.

They have three Wallabies under 25 in their squad, including Angus Bell, Izaia Perese and Lachie Swinton, with Bell only 21.

This is coupled with the likes of Harrison, Donaldson, Ramm, Nawaqanitawase and Horton - all players who have shown they have the capabilities to make that next step in different stages of the past 18 months.

It's up to them and coach Coleman to find that consistency if they want to compete with the rest of the competition and push for a shock finals appearance.

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