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Waratahs out to end Leichhardt stint on a high against depleted Blues

Thu, 26/05/2022, 5:24 am
Nathan Williamson
by Nathan Williamson
The Highlanders hosted the Waratahs to close out round 14.

The NSW Waratahs are eyeing off a weakened Blues side as the perfect momentum builder ahead of the Super Rugby Pacific finals, keen to go out in style at Leichhardt Oval.

The sixth-placed Waratahs are riding high after Sunday's win over the Highlanders, entering as surprise favourites as they look to continue their strong form against Kiwi sides.

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“Every Kiwi side we’ve come up against we’ve actually been quite competitive for most sections of the game,” flanker Charlie Gamble said.

“The Chiefs we got down to 13 and that didn’t help us. Beating the Crusaders at home was massive, you saw the emotion the boys had in that one.

“Unfortunately we only played 60 minutes against the ‘Canes and couldn’t close it out. To go to Dunedin I thought that was the best we’ve played all year.

“We’re quietly confident in our ability that when we have to beat a Kiwi team to win the title we can do that."

Their favourites tag can largely be attributed to Blues coach Leon MacDonald opting to rest several stars, including Beauden Barrett, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Rieko Ioane.

“We are in no way disrespecting our opposition. We have a very healthy respect for the Waratahs and believe we have named a team able to perform to our standards against them,” MacDonald stressed in a statement.

“One of our major strengths this season has been the quality of our young players who have been fronting every week in training. We have had limited chances to see them under pressure in a game situation, and prepare for any potential injuries. We also lost our bye week and we have asked a lot of the guys in recent weeks and they have delivered in spades.”

The absence of Barrett will please Waratahs fans but will disappoint opposite number Tane Edmed.

Edmed, who was denied a meeting with Richie Mo'unga three weeks ago for similar reasons, was excited about the prospect of testing himself against the best.

"I was actually pretty disappointed when Richie wasn’t playing against the ‘Saders,” Edmed said before the Blues' team was named. “It was good for our team and I understand that, but it would have been really cool to run against one of the best five-eighths in the world.

“I’ve always looked up to Beauden Barrett when I’ve been coming through and it would be so awesome if I could come up against him.

“He’s one of the best in the world, so it would be a really cool experience, especially at Leichhardt. Hopefully, I see him on that team sheet.”

Saturday's clash will likely be their last at Leichhardt, unless they pull off a bonus-point win and the Chiefs and Hurricanes lose.

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They will move to the new Allianz Stadium in 2023, having made the suburbian ground their own over the past two months.

“We love playing there. Obviously, the Blues are very strong side and we know that but we feel pretty confident,” Edmed said.

“We’ve been playing some good footy of late and when we cross that white line at Leichhardt, there’s a switch there and we love playing in front of that crowd. We’re definitely aware that the Blues are a strong outfit but we’ll be ready.

“We want to give our fans something to cheer about because they’ve been so good to us this year so we want to continue putting in strong performances, especially at Leichhardt.”

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