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It was a long way from being as satisfying as Waratahs fans would like, but the Tahs are on the board in season 2019 thanks to a 1-point win over the Sunwolves.
With Round 1 in the books, the Waratahs travel to Tokyo to tackle an historically enigmatic Sunwolves outfit. Join The Roar for a live blog of the action from 3:15pm AEDT.
We’ll start with the home side.
The Sunwolves were disappointing in their first-round matchup with the Sharks in Singapore.
New marquee signing Rene Ranger needs to offer more against an attack-oriented Waratahs outfit this afternoon, and their usually reliable triumvirate of Hendrik Tui, Hayden Parker and Ed Quirk must wrestle momentum back, and establish the pace of the game early In this fixture.
Parker in particular can keep games close off his own boot – the sharpshooter broke the record for the most consecutive kicks made in Super Rugby history last year.
The Waratahs are seemingly prepared to attack wide, and often, so the home side may need to lean on this asset through the early stages to keep things in check.
The Waratahs can take a lot from their first-round loss to the Hurricanes, a late try by the visitors sinking the men in sky blue 20-19.
A lot has been made of Bernard Foley’s missed penalty near on the bell – however the Waratahs should have shut the door on the visitors 15 minutes earlier. To blame Foley’s missed kick is to put a band-aid over a machete wound.
A systemic issue with the Waratahs is their inability to close games, and their frustrating tendency to play patches of excellent rugby union, followed by periods of drop ball, turnovers and missed tackles.
Good sides punish that – and for the Sunwolves this will be a good test to see where their standards sit in the early few rounds of the season.
On the team front, Kurtley Beale returns to the centres, partnering with Karmichael Hunt. The latter was superb last round, providing the Waratahs with some much-needed starch in defence.
Israel Folau remains at fullback, with Adam Ashley-Cooper slipping into a utility backs spot on the bench.
The forward pack is unchanged, with Tolu Latu, Ashley-Cooper and Will Miller ones to look out off the pine.
The Waratahs will be disappointed with a Round 1 loss that they really should have won. The Sunwolves were disappointing too, and while I expect them to bounce back, the injection of Kurtley Beale should provide enough spark in the Tahs’ attack to win this one comfortably.
Waratahs by 20+
Join The Roar for live scores and a blog of the match, starting from 3pm AEST.
Where: Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium, Tokyo
When: Saturday 23rd February – 3pm AEDT
Betting Odds: Waratahs $1.06, Sunwolves $9.20
History: Played 3: Waratahs 3 V Sunwolves 0
Last meeting: Round 18, 2018: Waratahs 77 d Sunwolves 25 at Allianz Stadium
14. Van den Heever
18. Ai Valu