Super Rugby preview: NSW Waratahs

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    Kurtley Beale is an earth-shattering loss for the Waratahs to overcome this Super Rugby season, and as a result all eyes will be on new fullback Adam Ashley-Cooper.

    The Waratahs have gone to great lengths to deny Ashley-Cooper is replacing Beale, pointing out the versatile former Brumby is a Wallabies star in his own right.

    This might be true, but the facts are Ashley-Cooper has plenty to prove at his new team in 2012.

    Beale’s defection to Melbourne has robbed NSW of the best attacking player in Australian rugby and arguably the most lethal No.15 in the world.

    No one expects Ashley-Cooper to play like Beale, but as the key signing at a well-equipped franchise starving for success, the 27-year-old needs immediate results.

    New coach Michael Foley says Ashley-Cooper has embraced the challenge.

    “I think it’s pretty natural for anybody joining a new team that they’re keen to earn their way,” Foley told AAP.

    “He’s a world class 15.”

    The ace up the sleeve for Foley and the Waratahs is five-eighth Berrick Barnes.

    With Beale gone, there can be no doubt now that Barnes is the man in charge.

    Only time will tell what physical shape he’s in after last year’s experiences with ‘footballer’s headache’.

    But if his performance for Australia in the third-place play-off at the World Cup is any indication, Barnes is ready for a breakout year.

    The No.10 has great polish and poise to his game and has future captain written all over him.

    “There’s no reason for us to expect anything but Berrick at his best and that’s certainly what he’s aspiring to,” Foley said of Barnes who will skipper the Tahs in the early rounds while Rocky Elsom is recovering from a hamstring problem.

    NSW have lost plenty of class and experience in the off-season, but in many ways they might be better for the freshen up.

    Warhorses Phil Waugh and Al Baxter are gone, along with halfback Luke Burgess.

    But Dan Vickerman will settle in for a full year after joining midway through last season, Elsom has returned to the edge of the scrum and South African Sarel Pretorius looks set to be a revelation at No.9.

    The glass half full approach says the Waratahs have been a model of consistency over the past few years, but the hard reality is they’re perennial underachievers.

    However, Foley believes the time he’s spent with his talented squad over recent seasons as their assistant means he’s well positioned to get NSW to rise to the next level and be title contenders.

    At last year’s humbling ‘fans forum’, Waratahs supporters voiced their desire for the team to play a more attractive style of rugby.

    Losing Beale will hardly help a team trying to forge a reputation as an attacking force, but Foley says he has a plan.

    “The important thing for each and every one of our guys, particularly the new guys, is to play to their strengths and do the things they’re good at,” added Foley, who received a major setback in the trials with winger Lachie Turner ruled out for at least six months with a hamstring tear.

    “It’s important to us that we’re effective on the field, and the things we do our fans need to be able to look at and be able to say they can make sense of it and they enjoyed watching us do it.”

    NSW Waratahs Super Rugby 2012 Factbox

    Finishes over the past three seasons: 2011 – qualifying-finalists; 2010 – semi-finalists; 2009 – 5th

    Coach: Michael Foley

    Captain: Rocky Elsom

    Gains: Rocky Elsom (Brumbies), Adam Ashley-Cooper (Brumbies), Sarel Pretorius (Cheetahs, SA), Grayson Hart (Southern Districts)

    Losses: Phil Waugh (retired), Al Baxter (retired), Kurtley Beale (Melbourne), Luke Burgess (Toulouse), Soseni Anesi (NTT Communications, Japan), Ryan Cross (Perpignan), Ben Mowen (Brumbies), Josh Holmes (France), Cam Jowitt

    One to watch: Berrick Barnes – With Kurtley Beale out of the picture, it’s up to the No.10 to take charge of the Waratahs attack.

    Best team: Adam Ashley-Cooper, Tom Kingston, Rob Horne, Tom Carter, Drew Mitchell, Berrick Barnes, Sarel Pretorius, Wycliff Palu, Chris Alcock, Rocky Elsom, Dan Vickerman, Sitaleki Timani, Benn Robinson, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Sekope Kepu. Interchange: Dean Mumm, Dave Dennis, Damien Fitzpatrick, Jeremy Tilse, Daniel Halangahu, Atieli Pakalani, Brendan McKibbin.

    Predicted Australian conference finish: 2nd.

    © AAP 2018

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    The Crowd Says (23)

    • February 15th 2012 @ 12:56pm
      DHE said | February 15th 2012 @ 12:56pm | ! Report

      I don’t buy Beale being so crippling a loss. The team looks more balanced than previous years with it’s absentees. I feel that potentially one of the big failings the Waratahs have continually displayed is a team of good-great players which didn’t translat evenly to the great team it should of. They weren’t greater, or even equal to the sum of their parts.

      Having said that, every years as a Waratahs fan starts of with a lot of hope, gets bashed around by the press. And eventually ends in some manner of disappointment, this year has started that way, let’s hope they can change the course over the tournament.

    • February 15th 2012 @ 1:11pm
      Will Sinclair said | February 15th 2012 @ 1:11pm | ! Report

      “Best team: Adam Ashley-Cooper, Tom Kingston, Rob Horne, Tom Carter, Drew Mitchell, Berrick Barnes, Sarel Pretorius, Wycliff Palu, Chris Alcock, Rocky Elsom, Dan Vickerman, Sitaleki Timani, Benn Robinson, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Sekope Kepu. Interchange: Dean Mumm, Dave Dennis, Damien Fitzpatrick, Jeremy Tilse, Daniel Halangahu, Atieli Pakalani, Brendan McKibbin.”

      If that team’s not good enough to win the Australian Conference, then I’m not here.

      The challenge, of course, will be getting everyone fit and firing at the same time…

      • Roar Guru

        February 15th 2012 @ 1:40pm
        jeznez said | February 15th 2012 @ 1:40pm | ! Report

        Except it will be Paddy Ryan or John Ulugia on the bench instead of Tilse as those starting props mean you need a replacement tighthead not a replacement loosehead.

        Kane Douglas will be a chance of getting the spot ahead of Dean Mumm.

        The trial this weekend has McCutcheon in the 7 jumper ahead of Alcock which surprises me based on how the two played last year. McCutcheon is VC so obviously being looked on quite positively by Foley.

        I think Bernard Foley will be a great chance of overtaking Halangahu in the pecking order as back up 10 this year as well.

        Strangely named “Best 15” Not sure why Turner is ignored – I know he is undergoing surgery but if you are leaving out players who are injured then you cannot name: Mitchell, Elsom and Vickerman. On top of that Timani is still away. The named 15 as first choice for this weekend are:

        1. Benn Robinson (Eastwood)
        2. Tatafu Polota-Nau (Parramatta)
        3. Sekope Kepu (Randwick)
        4. Dean Mumm (Sydney University)
        5. Kane Douglas (Southern Districts)
        6. Dave Dennis (Sydney University)
        7. Pat McCutcheon (Sydney University), vice captain
        8. Wycliff Palu (Manly)
        9. Sarel Pretorius (N/A)
        10. Berrick Barnes (Sydney University), captain
        11. Brackin Karauria-Henry (Southern Districts)
        12. Tom Carter (Sydney University)
        13. Rob Horne (Southern Districts)
        14. Tom Kingston (Sydney University)
        15. Adam Ashley-Cooper (Northern Suburbs)

        • February 15th 2012 @ 1:56pm
          Will Sinclair said | February 15th 2012 @ 1:56pm | ! Report

          And I reckon Dave Dennis – if he can capture the rampaging form of last year – could certainly challenge Rocky.

        • February 15th 2012 @ 2:08pm
          jameswm said | February 15th 2012 @ 2:08pm | ! Report

          jeznez Turner is out for the season. Fair enough not to count him.

          At this stage Mitchell, Elsom and Vicks are due to play most of it.

          • February 16th 2012 @ 1:25pm
            jeznez said | February 16th 2012 @ 1:25pm | ! Report

            Looks like we have lost Vicks now as well.

            The fact that Palu and Robinson didn’t play the first trial and Mitchell and Elsom are both set to miss the first match is not looking good – especially with the injury history of TPN, Kepu, Barnes and Horne. What chance this season the first team winds up looking like:

            1. Tilse
            2. Fitzpatrick
            3. Ryan
            4. Douglas
            5. Timani
            6. Mumm
            7. Alcock
            8. Dennis
            9. Pretorius
            10. Halangahu
            11. Karauria-Henry
            12. Carter
            13. Kingston
            14. Pakalani
            15. Ashley-Cooper

            • February 16th 2012 @ 5:10pm
              rl said | February 16th 2012 @ 5:10pm | ! Report

              Jez, that’s what I’ve been saying – that’s a team of very promising youngsters, but not a finals candidate (this year) and not even sure it’s a no.2 finsih in the Aus conference.

              Not that it’s any consolation, but I doubt the Reds (let alone any of the other Aus S15 teams) could present a 2nd string team as strong as what you have listed.

    • February 15th 2012 @ 1:20pm
      Who Needs Melon said | February 15th 2012 @ 1:20pm | ! Report

      If the first 15 can stay healthy, they could be very competitive… but that’s a very, very big IF.

      The other challenge will NOT be whether they play ‘entertaining’ or ‘running’ rugby but whether they play SMART rugby:
      – No mindless, mid-field bombs with no chasers.
      – No crabbing and cramping each other until the the choice is kick or be scragged.
      – No mindless grubbers.
      – No one-out hit ups with no support.

      I know the Reds won the comp last year but if Elsom, Barnes and Pretorius can inspire and control the team well, the Waratahs probably SHOULD be the top aussie team this year. Getting in early with my Waratahs kiss of death!

      • Roar Guru

        February 15th 2012 @ 1:43pm
        jeznez said | February 15th 2012 @ 1:43pm | ! Report

        Completely agree that injuries is a monster if with this team – and with the smart rugby comments.

        I want my team to do well but I am very nervous for them.

      • Roar Guru

        February 15th 2012 @ 6:11pm
        Jiggles said | February 15th 2012 @ 6:11pm | ! Report

        The first 3 of those points start and end with Barnes. If the Tah’s pack gets under a tiny bit of pressure at the breakdown he starts to sit very deep in the pocket. He puts pressure on his outside runners when he does pass, but often his first instinct is to kick, and very aimlessly at that. He really needs to step up and address this in the up coming season if the Tah’s are going to get the maximum potential out of their good backline, and if he wants to be seriously considered at 10 over Cooper for Wallaby duties.

    • February 15th 2012 @ 2:07pm
      jameswm said | February 15th 2012 @ 2:07pm | ! Report

      First point is surely based on last year, Pakalani starts ahead of Kingston. Not a big deal though. Kingston is young and maybe has improved.

      Next point is if McCutcheon starts the first game at 7, it’ll show the coaching staff hasn’t learnt a thing. Alcock has excelled every time I’ve seen him for the Tahs and was the standout club forward last year. McCutch is a plodder, I’m afraid.

      I think the big point of difference will be Pretorius at 9. If the bulk of that first string forward pack (and bear in mind for most of last season they had no Robinson, TPN, Vickerman, Palu or Elsom) stays fit, they have to be strong.

      As thers said – they need to play smart rugby and execute their basic skills consistently well.

      • February 15th 2012 @ 5:30pm
        Jag man said | February 15th 2012 @ 5:30pm | ! Report

        McCutcheon actually was leading the comp in Pilfers at the point where he got injured last year and for about 6 weeks afterwards. That playing off the bench when Waugh was fit. He ended with ten and was still 3rd or so for the season.

    • February 15th 2012 @ 2:53pm
      SAMURAI said | February 15th 2012 @ 2:53pm | ! Report

      If the Waratahs can get through this Super 15 season without being booed by their own supporters, then I would consider it as a success.

      • February 15th 2012 @ 3:02pm
        Bigbaz said | February 15th 2012 @ 3:02pm | ! Report

        haha love it

    • February 15th 2012 @ 3:01pm
      rl said | February 15th 2012 @ 3:01pm | ! Report

      Smartest offseason move for the Tash would be to poach the Reds physios, strength & performance trainers. No hammys torn off the bone up here (so far, touch wood)

      Second smartest move – could Robinson or Kepu throw in at the lineouts instead. Gotta love TPN, but surely the joke is over now?

      • February 15th 2012 @ 3:07pm
        Bigbaz said | February 15th 2012 @ 3:07pm | ! Report

        and maybe a tackling coach for TPN so they can keep him on the paddock.

        • February 15th 2012 @ 3:12pm
          rl said | February 15th 2012 @ 3:12pm | ! Report

          sorry Baz, Reds gazumped you again – that guy is too busy working with Quade! (perhaps in vain?)

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