NSW Waratahs coach Rob Penney has labelled Saturday’s Super Rugby AU clash with a Justin Langer fired-up Western Force as a potential massive banana skin for his side.
It’s likely to be an emotion-fuelled performance by the Force, who will debut in the revamped domestic competition and play their first Super match of any type since being cut from the full tournament after the 2017 season.
Australian cricket coach, batting great and proud West Australian Langer addressed the Force in the lead-up to Saturday night’s SCG encounter.
“He’s a good man, Rugby Australia got him on one of the Zoom conferences during the COVID offseason – he was really good,” Penney said.
“I understand that he’s probably telling the Western Force the vagaries of living on the east coast of Australia and all the things that the western province doesn’t like about the eastern side and firing them up.
“We counter that with our own motivations and our own inspirations.”
Penney is wary of a Force side he knows little about but won’t be underestimating, especially with his side needing a win after a first-round loss to Queensland.
“We are going to have to be very careful,” Penney said.
“It’s these sort of fixtures where one team gets an emotional boost. Another team, for one reason or another, might be a bit low and it turns into a massive banana skin.
“For us to be able to challenge the Force, we need to be preparing well and making sure we’re not getting a bit lazy in terms of that mental prep and game prep that individual has to go through.”
Penney has named an unchanged starting side, opting to bring Karmichael Hunt back off the bench, with the Wallabies’ veteran recovering from a hamstring injury.
Rookie inside centre Joey Walton, after debuting last week, retains the run-on spot.
“Joey had a really solid performance last week and I guess it’s furthering his development and we can unleash Karmichael a bit later,” Penney said.
Waratahs team (15-1): Jack Maddocks, James Ramm, Alex Newsome, Joey Walton, Mark Nawaqanitawase, Will Harrison, Mitch Short, Will Harris, Michael Hooper, Lachie Swinton, Rob Simmons (capt), Ned Hanigan, Harry Johnson-Holmes, Robbie Abel, Angus Bell.
Res: Tom Horton, Tetera Faulkner, Tiaan Tauakipulu, Jack Dempsey, Michael McDonald, Ben Donaldson/Tepai Moeroa, Karmichael Hunt.