Friday, April 27, 2012

Waratahs forced to start inexperienced wings 27/04/2012

The NSW Waratahs will rely on two wings making their season debuts to help combat an All Black-studded Crusaders backline in Sunday's Super Rugby clash at Allianz Stadium.

Former Auckland provincial representative Atieli Pakalani and Wellington-born wing Peter Betham face a tough initiation after both benefited from a backline revamp forced by fullback Bernard Foley's shoulder injury and Rob Horne's two-game suspension.

Wallabies utility Adam Ashley-Cooper switches from the left wing to fullback and regular right wing Tom Kingston, who was originally signed to bolster the Waratahs midfield stocks, replaces Horne at centre as the Wallaby starts his ban for a dangerous tackle on Melbourne Rebels fullback Kurtley Beale last Saturday.

Berrick Barnes was another fullback option - he filled in there when Foley was sidelined during the Waratahs 30-21 victory over the Rebels - but despite occasionally training in the position today he will start at first five-eighth.

Tongan-born Pakalani was signed by the Waratahs after starring for Auckland in the 2010 ITM Cup - the 22-year-old scored a consolation try in his Super rugby debut against the Crusaders in Nelson last March and made nine more appearances before an off-season shoulder reconstruction relegated him to club rugby as he managed his rehabilitation.

Betham, 23, who is in his second stint with the Waratahs after being a foundation member of the Melbourne Rebels last year, was not even included in the Waratahs 35-man training squad but has been training with the team since Wallabies wings Drew Mitchell and Lachie Turner suffered season-ending injuries before the competition began.

Pakalani and Betham were chosen ahead of Brackin Karauria-Henry although this week was still a cause for celebration for the Christchurch-born outside back - he became a father on Anzac Day when his partner gave birth to their son Brayden.

Barnes had been troubled by flu in the build-up to the round 10 clash but comfortably completed the Waratahs final intensive tune-up before tomorrow's captain's run.

Waratahs head coach Michael Foley would not confirm his line-up after training but the formations running at during the session ended conjecture about the backline permutations.

The Waratahs pack selections were more straightforward -- Jono Jenkins returns to the match-day 22 to start on the openside flank as cover for Chris Alcock, who needed surgery for appendicitis last weekend.

It also appears that Dean Mumm has retained his starting role in the second row alongside Kane Douglas despite former Wallabies and NSW hooker Brendan Cannon arguing the England-bound former international's form indicated he should be benched.

Jeremy Tisle provides propping cover for Wallabies Benn Robinson and Sekope Kepu after Paddy Ryan was ruled out for about six weeks after suffering a foot injury against the Rebels .

Former Wallabies captain Rocky Elsom will again provide impact via the bench. The blindside flanker made his return against the Rebels after a persistent hamstring injury delayed his comeback after last season's transfer from the Brumbies.

The seventh-placed Waratahs are seeking their first win against the Crusaders, who are currently holding the third and final wildcard in sixth position, since 2004.

NSW Waratahs (probable): Adam Ashley-Cooper, Atieli Pakalani, Tom Kingston, Tom Carter, Peter Betham, Berrick Barnes, Brendan McKibbin, Wycliff Palu, Jono Jenkins, Dave Dennis, Kane Douglas, Dean Mumm, Sekope Kepu, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Benn Robinson. Reserves: John Ulugia, Jeremy Tilse, Lopeti Timani, Sitaleki Timani, Rocky Elsom, Sarel Pretorious, Brackin Karauria-Henry.

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