NSW may have let Wallabies star Kurtley Beale slip away to the Rebels but they plan to make sure he has no room to move in their Super Rugby clash on Friday night.
Beale left Sydney for Melbourne and, if he overcomes a persistent hamstring problem, will run out for his first game at AAMI Park against his old team.
Rebels skipper Stirling Mortlock on Monday confirmed he would miss the match due to a troublesome calf injury and he could be sidelined for their next few games.
“It’s pretty tough because I’d like nothing more than to play in our first game, and in particular our first home game,” the 34-year-old outside centre said.
“Having said that I’m really impressed with our preparation.”
Mortlock said fullback Beale had run freely at their training session, with the team to be named on Wednesday.
“At this stage it’s still touch and go but he ran really well so fingers crossed,” said Mortlock.
“With muscle strains you can’t push them too much but he ran really well so that’s pleasing for us.”
Waratahs coach Michael Foley said Beale was the sort of player who could create an opportunity out of nothing and his side needed to work to contain him.
“Whenever Kurtley plays there’s going to be some tackles that he breaks and I think as a team we’ve got to scramble those situations,” Foley said.
“We want to defend well in the first instance, but also accept the fact that Kurtley is pretty good at finding holes and we’ve just got to be good at covering them.”
While the Rebels had the first-round bye, the Waratahs were pipped 25-21 by Queensland, the Super champions stealing the game with a try after the siren.
NSW hope to have Berrick Barnes back in the line-up after recovering from a groin injury, the Test star to be assessed on Tuesday.
“Berrick has had a rehab run out there today and I didn’t watch that too closely but I’m led to believe he got through that OK,” Foley said.
Skipper Rocky Elsom, who didn’t play because of injury, said his team-mates were ready to move on.
“I think we did a lot of things really well and when you don’t get a result when you do things really well, sometimes it makes you a bit disheartened, so we certainly don’t want that,” Elsom said.
“It was disappointing we didn’t get away with a win so you can’t get past that.
“By the same token they are mature enough to focus on the Rebels now.”
In other news, the Rebels are assisting police with an investigation into a car accident involving a player, who they have not named.
The club said there were no injuries.
“We are aware of a minor traffic incident on Friday involving a Rebels player,” a club spokesman said.
“The club is currently assisting Victoria Police with its investigation and has no further comment to make at this time.”