2013 Australian Super Rugby squads: NSW Waratahs

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    New Wallabies coach Michael Cheika has one year to get his side World Cup ready. (Image: Supplied)

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    Our series on the chances of the Australian Super Rugby for 2013 continues, with perennial under-achievers the NSW Waratahs.

    In
    O Atkins, M Hooper, L Timani (EPS), G Hart (EPS), P Betham, M Hodge, C Crawford

    Out
    Dean Mumm, Dan Vickerman, Rocky Elsom, Chris Alcock, Sarel Pretorius, Brackin Karauria-Henry, Daniel Halangahu, Tevita Metuisela, Nathan Trist, Lotu Taukeiaho, Atieli Pakalani

    Season chances
    The Waratahs have finally had the cleanout they needed, including players and staff alike. Some serious dead wood have been detached from the structure and how they rebuild in 2013 is the key to how the Waratahs perform over the coming years.

    I suspect they will improve on the lacklustre 2012 season, however their season is heavily reliant on some injury-prone individuals.

    Palu, Poluta-Nau, Barnes and Horne sit in core positions for the Tahs, but to date have not stayed fit long enough to give the team some continuity. This will have to change (or the players in these positions will) if they hold any hope of bumping the ACT Brumbies and Queensland Reds in 2013.

    Predicted finish – conference third – overall ninth

    Key player
    Players love having a big man on the field that will run hard and tackle even harder. For past seasons the Tahs have relied on Palu for this inspiration, despite his limited game time. This torch has now been passed to Sitaleki Timani.

    He will need to continue his bustling form to give the Tahs players the inspiration needed. He has been outstanding in the Wallabies jersey and I expect him to improve in the coming season. He will need to continue to deliver his hard running and jarring hits to help inspire the sky blue to have some self-belief.

    Up and comer
    Peter Betham’s form in New Zealand’s ITM Cup has people sitting up and taking notice. I had written him off two years ago after drifting between the Brumbies, Melbourne Rebels and Waratahs. But if he can translate this ITM form to Super Rugby, and the coaching staff utilise him in a similar fashion to Digby Ioane, he could be just what they need to become a more attacking team.

    Best buy
    Michael Hooper became the prince of Australian Rugby in 2012 and is already looking to dethrone the king of the breakdown, David Pocock. If the Tahs can utilise his assets, he will continue to develop as a player and as an on-field leader.

    2013 is a defining year for Hooper and I hope he doesn’t drown in the sea of sky blue, like so many other big signings have in the past.

    Biggest loss
    I don’t think the Waratahs lost any player who didn’t need to be let go, or could be adequately replaced. Vickerman was a great player and source of motivation, but was not in career best form.

    The same can be said of Elsom, who never showed the Australian public what he showed the Irish with his time at Leinster.

    Best team
    1. Benn Robinson
    2. Tatafu Poluta-Nau
    3. Sekope Kepu
    4. Sitaleki Timani
    5. Kane Douglas
    6. Dave Dennis
    7. Michael Hooper
    8. Wycliff Palu
    9. Brendan McKibbin
    10. Brendan Foley
    11. Drew Mitchell
    12. Adam Ashley-Cooper
    13. Rob Horne
    14. Israel Folau
    15. Berrick Barnes

    16. Damien Fitzpatrick
    17. Paddy Ryan
    18. Greg Peterson
    19. Lopeti Timani
    20. Grayson Hart
    21. Tom Kingston
    22. Peter Betham

    Other squad
    23. John Ulugia
    24. Jeremy Tilse
    25. Ollie Atkins
    26. Pat McCutheon
    27. Michael Hodge
    28. Cam Crawford
    29. Tom Carter
    30. Lachie Turner

    Extended playing squad (EPS)
    31. Luke Holmes – hooker
    32. Jed Holloway – lock
    33. Matt Lucas – scrum half
    34. Ben Volavola – five-eighth
    35. Sam Lane – five-eighth

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    The Crowd Says (109)

    • January 8th 2013 @ 6:53am
      nickoldschool said | January 8th 2013 @ 6:53am | ! Report

      Some big calls there with AAC at 12 and both Turner and Carter not in the best 22.

      I still think a fit Turner has to be in the back three. Again not much experience and depth at 9-10 and am not convinced McKibbin-Foley are the duo we need to win the aussie conference. Its good to have speedsters/try-scorers like Mitchell, Turner or hopefully Folau but its sad we dont have a Lealiifano, Cooper, JOC, Genia, Toomua to create things beforehand.

      Funny I walwasy the same feeling when i look at tahs roster: some individual quality but dont have the impression we have ‘a group’ there. Hope Cheika can prove me wrong though.

      • Roar Guru

        January 8th 2013 @ 8:06am
        Who Needs Melon said | January 8th 2013 @ 8:06am | ! Report

        I agree. Should have no problems at all with the forwards (although perhaps bench forwards a bit of a weakness?) but the backs in particular just don’t seem to fit right. Having said that, I think I’ve said the same thing about every team so far (noting we haven’t seen the Reds article yet*). The reason is we have a real dearth of really good, specialist 10s and 12s in Australia at the moment. Looking forward to the guys who AREN’T really on the radar showing up and surprising us this year.

        * edit: just noticed the Reds article has appeared. Will read it now.

        • January 8th 2013 @ 9:59am
          nickoldschool said | January 8th 2013 @ 9:59am | ! Report

          Did you feel the same about the Brumbies? I thought they had a pretty well balanced and dense group of players. This morning I really feel the Tahs are now the third Aussie franchise in terms of roster. Maybe we are/ I am underestimating the impact A guy like Hooper may have but am just very sceptical about the influence our 9-10 can have on the game. Hope am wrong.

          • Roar Guru

            January 8th 2013 @ 12:36pm
            Who Needs Melon said | January 8th 2013 @ 12:36pm | ! Report

            I didn’t like the suggested Brumbies centre combination (McCabe and Smith). Both solid, no-nonsense players but I think they could really use someone like Tapuai or JOC there – i.e. more of a second play maker and someone elusive, with a better passing and kicking game, etc.

            The other alternative for the Brumbies would be to play either Toomua or Lealifano at 12. Although they fit my 2nd playmaker description, it would be a shame for Lealifano to lose the 10 jersey – I really want to see more of him there and provide the Wallabies another viable option. And I see Toomua more of a pure 10. Not sure he has the pace or fleetness of foot or subtlety or something for a 12.

            Maybe we will see a bit of mixing it up and horses for courses with the Brumbies early on. Don’t get me wrong – I still rate them. In fact I see a tight tussle between the Tahs, Brumbies and Reds this year,… then daylight before the Force and Rebels I’m afraid.

        • January 8th 2013 @ 11:56am
          jameswm said | January 8th 2013 @ 11:56am | ! Report

          I think at lock Melon, the Tahs bench forwards are a bit of a weakness. Ulugia had an excellent season (I’d have him ahead of Fitzpatrick), Paddy Ryan is a very good bench prop, and LTimani on the bench or may take Dennis’s starting spot.

        • Roar Guru

          January 8th 2013 @ 1:48pm
          jeznez said | January 8th 2013 @ 1:48pm | ! Report

          WNM, I don’t think the bench forwards are weak. Don’t know they are named exactly right upa above. Fitzpatrick will only take Ulugia’s spot if John’s throwing remains as weak as it has and if Fitz can prove he is over the injuries he has had the last couple of years.

          Peterson will have to show something to make the bench otherwise Dennis and Lopeti Timani will cover 6 and the second row between them and McCutcheon will be the other loosie on the bench.

          Ryan and Timani are strong and will be challenging to start and probably for the Wallabies over the course of the season.

          The back line is massively up for debate and that will be the most interesting thing to see.

    • January 8th 2013 @ 6:55am
      p.Tah said | January 8th 2013 @ 6:55am | ! Report

      Interesting that you don’t mention Folau in the discussion just in the team.

      9th overall. I think you’re being a tad pessimistic, but for once it’s nice for the team not to be overly pumped up.

      • January 8th 2013 @ 10:05am
        Selector said | January 8th 2013 @ 10:05am | ! Report

        I am very excited about the Folau factor and I have always wanted to see him play union, especially now with his extra kicking abilities. In the attacking 22 I would be slotting BB into 10, to set up for the cross kick to Folau, similar to the Larkham/Tuqiri style tactic. Even if they know it;s coming, it would still be very hard to stop.

        • Roar Guru

          January 8th 2013 @ 1:24pm
          Kane said | January 8th 2013 @ 1:24pm | ! Report

          I’d back Jane to stop it, hell I can’t remember the last time he didn’t catch a kick he contested

          • Roar Guru

            January 8th 2013 @ 1:43pm
            jeznez said | January 8th 2013 @ 1:43pm | ! Report

            Am a massive fan of Jane’s aerial ability but Folau was good in the air before he went to AFL and stands ten cms taller. I suspect he can jump a lot higher and has added reach too. Jane is currently the world’s best challenging or receiving the high ball but Izzy may knock him off that perch.

            • January 8th 2013 @ 2:15pm
              kingplaymaker said | January 8th 2013 @ 2:15pm | ! Report

              jeznez Folau was the outstanding player in the air in league before he left, and that was before two years of dedicated training in a sport revolving around this aspect in the AFL. If the Wallabies 10 just kicked the ball over to Folau’s wing all game wouldn’t that be enough to beat the Lions? How could they stop it?

            • January 8th 2013 @ 3:50pm
              Markus said | January 8th 2013 @ 3:50pm | ! Report

              You’ve now got me wondering why the in-goal bomb has never really been used in rugby as much as it has been in league.
              The list of possible outcomes of such a tactic are:
              – Try
              – 5m scrum (opposition knocks on or takes ball back over tryline)
              – 22m dropout, with possession reclaimed about 40m out (after kick return)
              – mark and free kick, with possession reclaimed in a lineout 20-30m out
              – 105m runaway try against the run of play (fairly unlikely)

              So unlike league where an in-goal mark would mean possession for the opposition 20m out, even a mark is possession back to the attacker, which gives the play even better odds/lower risk in rugby than in league.

              • Roar Guru

                January 9th 2013 @ 5:47pm
                jeznez said | January 9th 2013 @ 5:47pm | ! Report

                I suspect it is about certainty of scoring vs certainty of retaining possession. All those options of getting the ball back pale into insignificance compared to scoring itself and most of the time you’d back yourself to score if you can hang on to the pill in the attacking zone.

                In RL if you are on the last you are going to kick regardless, once you’ve made it into the attacking zone it becomes even more attractive option to put that attacking kick in rather than keep it in hand on the last in the hopes of a missed tackle.

            • January 8th 2013 @ 6:46pm
              WQ said | January 8th 2013 @ 6:46pm | ! Report

              Izzy looked ok chasing attacking kicks where everything is in favour of the chaser!
              Not so sure he looked as good as Jane when receiving kicks?

    • January 8th 2013 @ 8:05am
      Red Kev said | January 8th 2013 @ 8:05am | ! Report

      A Wallaby pack when at full strength makes them a real danger team, but their backline still looks shaky, no-one is sure what a decent Waratahs backline looks like (partly because they move around so much it is like musical chairs, and partly because it is so long since anyone has seen a decent Waratah backline).

      • January 8th 2013 @ 12:00pm
        jameswm said | January 8th 2013 @ 12:00pm | ! Report

        Yeah Barnes and Foley can play 10-12-15, AAC plays anywhere from 11-15. Someone has to get the balance right.

        My best Tahs XV does not have Rob Horne in it. AAC played well for the Wallabies at 13, and we have ample back 3 players in Mitchell, Folau, Turner, Betham and Kingston, many of whom can play 15 (plus Barnes and Foley).

        I’d also start Hart at 9.

        We saw glimpses that reminded us that a fit and with-mojo Barnes is still a good footballer. maybe he’d do less silly kicking at 12. Foley is a challenge the defence type of 10.

        Still, as we all know, the big question marks are at 9-10. I’d start with Hart-Foley there and give them a few games to ckick.

    • January 8th 2013 @ 8:51am
      Chui said | January 8th 2013 @ 8:51am | ! Report

      Agree with a lot of the previous posts.

      9, 10 & 12 seems to be the problem, and has been for some time. A bit of stability would be nice.

      If fit, the forwards will be fine, but there’s the crux – “if fit”. Mind you, I can’t see Cheika puting up with unfit players for long.

      Sitaleki Tomani will be starting the year with Super 15 fitness rather than Japanese fitness. There were some good signs Lopeti would be dangerous if he could contribute for longer periods. He could prove to be a good backup/tandem with Palu.

      At this stage surely Turner is a better option than Folau.

      I just want to walk away from games thinking they had a red hot crack at it. I haven’t felt that way for ages.

      • January 8th 2013 @ 11:37pm
        Parra said | January 8th 2013 @ 11:37pm | ! Report

        The problem with Turner is that in the modern era the back three have to bring so much more to the game. They have a much bigger skill-set. Turner is a good finisher and is fast (although I don’t think his ‘fastest man in all codes’ title of a few years ago is setting him apart from other speedsters in the game at the moment). He has very few strings to his bow. He doesn’t kick, he doesn’t create and interplay well. Think of the weaving runs Mitchell is capable of down the sideline turning people inside-out then feeding another speedster. There’s a classic example of this from a Wallabies vs. Barbs game at Tickenham ca. 2010.

        If a player has a limited skill-set then the skill(s) have to be exceptional. Tiquiri when playing at his peak. Ioane. Lomu.

    • Roar Guru

      January 8th 2013 @ 9:01am
      B-Rock said | January 8th 2013 @ 9:01am | ! Report

      Would need another injury crisis to finish 9th

      Best pack by far of the Aussie sides – top 4 overall IMO. Effectively the incumbent wallabies pack without Poey – Hoops not a bad replacement however.

      Key weakness remains at 9 and 10 – will be important how Foley develops here. Need to put BB @ 12 to assist when the inexperienced combo of McKibbin/Hart and Foley get stuck. AAC goes to 15.

      Would have to have Turner on the bench at least – versatility across the back three, I would assume he is well ahead of Betham in the pecking order.

      My team:
      1. Benn Robinson
      2. Tatafu Poluta-Nau
      3. Sekope Kepu
      4. Sitaleki Timani
      5. Kane Douglas
      6. Dave Dennis
      7. Michael Hooper
      8. Wycliff Palu
      9. Brendan McKibbin
      10. Brendan Foley
      11. Drew Mitchell
      12. Berrick Barnes
      13. Rob Horne
      14. Israel Folau
      15. Adam Ashley-Cooper

      • January 8th 2013 @ 9:35am
        cm said | January 8th 2013 @ 9:35am | ! Report

        I agree, B-Rock. Any team that plays AAC at 12 is obviously short of talent, and would condemn the poor man to yet another season away from his best position(s), 13 or 15 IMHO.

        Swapping BB and AAC makes sense, although I was pleased to see the stability BB gave the Wallabies at 15.

        Nor am I convinced about McKibbin (Wallaby back-up to Brett Sheehan is not a good look, given their age difference). But I’m keen to see Foley get a red-hot go at 10. I think he could be inspirational, and his Sevens experience suggests he’ll be good at setting up his outside man.

        • January 8th 2013 @ 9:39am
          Jutsie said | January 8th 2013 @ 9:39am | ! Report

          Yeah its a quandary, barnes is their best option at 12 but at the same time I would like to see him play at 15 as that should be the only position he plays for the wobbs.
          They dont have many other ball playing 12 options.

          • January 8th 2013 @ 10:00am
            Selector said | January 8th 2013 @ 10:00am | ! Report

            I started barnes at 15, as he was fantastic under the highball and although he is not your Dagg style attacking fullback, he did offer a lot at the back for the Wallabies.

          • January 8th 2013 @ 1:00pm
            jameswm said | January 8th 2013 @ 1:00pm | ! Report

            Or options at 12 at all. I don’t think AAC or Horne can do it. All I can see is Lane at 10 and Foley at 12.

            A world class 9 or 10 would be nice, but then the Tahs thought they had that with Pretorius.

            And on that note, can they invent a few new surnames in South Africa? They’re all called Pretorius, de Villiers or a handful of others.

      • January 8th 2013 @ 11:02am
        Markus said | January 8th 2013 @ 11:02am | ! Report

        The best pack for the first 40 minutes at least. Dennis, Hooper and maybe Palu are the only 80 minute players in that pack, although Palu is only ever one tackle away from being out for the season.

        • Roar Guru

          January 8th 2013 @ 5:36pm
          B-Rock said | January 8th 2013 @ 5:36pm | ! Report

          I would say first 60mins – Timani and Douglas put in some good performances well into the 2nd half for the wallabies this yr. The issue will be lack of depth in the forwards for injuries and fatigue. Saying that, the Tahs are no the only Oz SR team to have issues here.

          • January 9th 2013 @ 11:58am
            Markus said | January 9th 2013 @ 11:58am | ! Report

            They did, but then did not really back it up the following week. Douglas’ best performance was followed with a very lacklustre one, and Timani I believe had 1-2 weeks off nursing a minor injury after his first 80 minute performance.

            That the Waratahs ended up being the bulk of the starting Wallabies pack could end up counting against them this year, as they will not have had the amout of off-season fitness training that other Aus SR forwards have had.

            I agree that lack of forward depth will be a problem for every Aus team.
            For the Brumbies, Tahs and Reds it looks to be the second row, and the front row for the Force.
            As for the Rebels, I think they will be praying that not a single one of their starting pack goes down during the year, as they are looking very thin across the park.

    • January 8th 2013 @ 9:04am
      Will Sinclair said | January 8th 2013 @ 9:04am | ! Report

      Michael Hooper will be an asset to the Waratahs, but surely the “best buy” is coach Michael Cheika.

      He has exactly the sort of no bull sh*t, no spin, no favours attitude that an underachieving side like the Waratahs needs.

      I expect him to improve the side immeasurably, and I think they are genuine finals contenders (injury permitting, which is unfortunately an issue for all Aussie teams given the lesser player depth in this country).

      • January 8th 2013 @ 10:31am
        Blinky Bill of Bellingen said | January 8th 2013 @ 10:31am | ! Report

        Hear, hear!! 😉

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