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The Waratahs will look to build on their great win over the Crusaders when they host the Sunwolves tonight in Newcastle. Join The Roar for live scores and a commentary of the match from 7:45pm AEDT.
After a poor performance against the Brumbies a fortnight ago, the Waratahs reminded everyone of their potential last week, defeating the Crusaders at the SCG.
NSW produced a professional performance against the best team in Super Rugby and should use such a victory as a platform for a run to further glory down the track.
Tonight, the Waratahs need to navigate a Sunwolves side that is dealing with the unfortunate reality that they will no longer be apart of Super Rugby post 2020.
Regardless, the Sunwolves have won plenty of admirers and will be keen to cause a few upsets before they exit the competition.
Indeed they nearly defeated the Waratahs back in Round 2, only losing narrowly by a single point in Japan. You would think the Waratahs would have learned a lesson or two about underestimating your opposition.
Israel Folau’s hulking younger brother John is set to be unleashed on the Sunwolves in his Super Rugby debut after injury forced Waratahs coach Daryl Gibson into a late change on Thursday.
Former Wallaby Curtis Rona suffered a low-grade groin injury at training, handing a start to Alex Newsome on the left wing and Folau a promotion to the reserves.
Outside back Folau, 24, is listed as 1.93m and 112kg and played eight NRL games for Parramatta in 2015-17.
Gibson had earlier taken an educated risk by resting Wallabies Bernard Foley, Adam Ashley-Cooper and Jack Dempsey for Friday’s clash.
Australian teams are required to rest their Test players for either one or two games in Rugby World Cup year, depending on their workloads and importance to the national cause.
NSW’s upset win over the Crusaders — combined with the Rebels’ loss to the Sharks — has lifted the Waratahs to the top of the Australian conference.
Even after resting three key players, the Waratahs will still start warm favourites against the Sunwolves, who are reeling from the news they will be cut from Super Rugby from 2021 on.
The Waratahs beat the Sunwolves 31-30 in Tokyo in February.
Mack Mason will get a rare start at No 10 in place of Foley, Karmichael Hunt is at outside centre for Ashley-Cooper while Michael Wells and Lachlan Swinton join captain Michael Hooper in a new look loose forward trio.
Ned Hanigan has been shifted to lock in place of Jed Holloway (ribs) for the first Super Rugby match to be played in Newcastle.
The Waratahs are coming off a strong win over the Crusaders and should logically be too strong here, even without their rested stars.
Waratahs by 21
Kickoff: 7:45pm AEDT
Venue: McDonald Jones Stadium
Israel Folau, Cam Clark, Karmichael Hunt, Kurtley Beale, Alex Newsome, Mack Mason, Nick Phipps, Michael Wells, Michael Hooper (c), Lachlan Swinton, Rob Simmons, Ned Hanigan, Sekope Kepu, Damien Fitzpatrick, Harry Johnson-Holmes
Reserves: Andrew Tuala, Rory O’Connor, Chris Talakai, Ryan McCauley, Tom Staniforth, Jake Gordon, Lalakai Foketi, John Folau
Ryohei Yamanaka, Gerhard van den Heever, Jason Emery, Harumichi Tatakawa, Semisi Masirewa, Hayden Parker, Kaito Shigeno, Rahboni Warren-Vosayaco, Dan Pryor (c), Hendrik Tui, Uwe Helu, Grant Hattingh, Jiwon Koo, Jaba Bregvadze, Pauliasi Manu
Reserves: Nathan Vella, Masataka Mikami, Takuma Asahara, Mark Abbott, Kara Pryor, Fumiaki Tanaka, Takuya Yamasawa, Josh Timu