Planet Rugby

Skelton starts for Waratahs

15th May 2014 07:38

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will skelton waratahs

Starting: Will Skelton

Waratahs coach Michael Cheika has made just the one change to his starting line-up for the must-win clash against the Lions on Sunday.

After a standout performance off the bench in the win over the Hurricanes, the biggest player in the Waratahs squad, Will Skelton, will start for the sixth time this season.

"I haven't left him out on purpose, he's played some good football this season and his game against the Hurricanes was another step up," said Cheika.

The 21-year-old tips the scales at close to 140 kilograms and will bring some added weight to the NSW eight who are up against a massive Lions forward pack.

"The Lions have been excellent in the scrum. They've pretty much dominated nearly every opposition that they've come up against, or they've had a really good contest with them, and it's going to be a big battle for our forwards out there," claimed the coach.

Jacques Potgieter drops back to the bench but the explosive ball runner and hit man is sure to get plenty of time on the field, after being forced off early with a leg injury against the Hurricanes.

An ankle injury to the Waratahs back-up hooker Tola Latu has opened the door for Eastwood's Hugh Roach to take his place on the bench and there's every chance he could make his debut says Cheika.

"He's been here since the start of the season and has worked hard at training. It's up to him now to see if he can keep Tolu out when he returns from injury."

The Waratahs' versatility has allowed them to name five forwards, a scrum-half and two wingers on the bench with Kurtley Beale, Adam Ashley Cooper, Rob Horne and Matt Carraro all starting and capable and comfortable of playing in numerous backline positions.

One of those backs named on the bench is Taqele Naiyaravoro, the Waratahs latest signing. But the Fijian winger may not get much game time according to the coach.

"It's probably just about getting in there, getting a look at the atmosphere, getting pitchside seeing how fast the game's going and, if he gets a chance to have a run, we'll throw him out there."

Undefeated at home this season, the Tahs will this weekend chase a ninth straight win over the Lions. But it won't be easy after the Lions came within a point of hauling down the Highlanders from 23-0.

"They were unlucky not to get the points in Dunedin and their second half was full of running."

Waratahs: 15 Israel Folau, 14 Matt Carraro, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Kurtley Beale, 11 Rob Horne, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Wycliff Palu, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Dave Dennis (c), 5 Kane Douglas, 4 Will Skelton, 3 Paddy Ryan, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Benn Robinson.
Replacements (one to be omitted): 16 Hugh Roach, 17 Jeremy Tilse, 18 Sekope Kepu, 19 Jacques Potgieter, 20 Stephen Hoiles, 21 Brendon McKibbin, 22 Alofa Alofa, 23 Taqele Naiyaravoro

Date: Sunday May 18
Venue: Allianz Stadium
Kick-off: 16.05 local (06.05 GMT)
Referee: Nick Briant (New Zealand)

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