Planet Rugby

Preview: Waratahs v Reds

27th February 2014 11:00

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With stage one of their difficult start complete, the Reds travel to Sydney looking for back-to-back wins on the road.

Victory over last season's finalists, the Brumbies, was a feather in the cap for new Reds boss Richard Graham in his first official game in charge.

Perhaps the best compliment to Graham is that the Reds looked the same as ever, tenacious at the breakdown and with pace to burn in the back-three.

Aidan Toua's thrilling try from full-back is definitely worth another look, while Lachie Turner got his time in Queensland off to the perfect start with a try and some try-saving defence.

But the key to the Reds, as it has been for some years, was the half-back combination of Will Genia and Quade Cooper.

It should be expected of a 25-year-old number ten to mature but Cooper has been such a wildcard playmaker throughout his career that his improved composure and control is obvious. His kicking from hand against the Brumbies was impressive as he and Genia closed out a ten-point win.

Having therefore overcome the breakdown threat of Ben Mowen and David Pocock, the Reds should feel confident taking on Michael Hooper.

The Waratahs' enjoyed some seriously porous defence from the Force in their season opener last Sunday, scoring six tries including a hat-trick for Israel Folau.

Folau is likely to score at the best of times but if you leave motorway lanes worth of space then the tri-code convert will always capitalise.

Expectations are high is Sydney following the return of Kurtley Beale as Michael Chieka looks to build on a promising first season in 2013, but the true battle comes up front.

Chieka needs the likes of Tatafu Polota-Nau, Benn Robinson, Hooper and Wycliff Palu to give more if the Waratahs are to content with the bruising Brumbies and Reds' packs.

Seeing Stephen Hoiles back in Super Rugby after years out through injury is welcome, while Jacques Potgeiter's selection in the second row will be worth keeping an eye on.

The Waratahs will be without captain Dave Dennis, with Hooper taking the armband, while the Reds have lost goalkicking inside centre Mike Harris with Anthony Fainga'a coming in at 12 to replace him.

The latter change might see the Reds run the ball a bit more, having made the fewest metres so far in the competition with 214.

Folau - who made four clean breaks last weekend - is also unlikely to run riot considering the Reds boast the best tackle success rate in the tournament with 92.2 percent.

Prediction: It's a pretty unforgiving start to the season but the Reds have enough quality and the defence to fend off the Waratahs here.

They have had the extra day's rest, essential after that defensive rearguard in Canberra, and appear well set to move top of the Australian Conference. Reds by three.

Waratahs: 15 Israel Folau, 14 Alofa Alofa, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Kurtley Beale, 11 Peter Betham, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Wycliff Palu, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Stephen Hoiles, 5 Kane Douglas, 4 Jacques Potgieter, 3 Paddy Ryan, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Benn Robinson.
Replacements (from): 16 Tola Latu, 17 Jeremy Tilse, 18 Sekope Kepu, 19 Will Skelton, 20 Pat McCutcheon, 21 Brendan McKibbin, 22 Rob Horne, 23 Matt Carraro, 24 Jonno Lance.

Reds: 15 Aidan Toua, 14 Lachie Turner, 13 Ben Tapuai, 12 Anthony Fainga'a, 11 Dom Shipperley, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia, 8 Jake Schatz, 7 Liam Gill, 6 Eddie Quirk, 5 James Horwill (c), 4 Rob Simmons, 3 Greg Holmes, 2 Saia Fainga'a, 1 James Slipper.
Replacements: 16 James Hanson, 17 Ben Daley, 18 Jono Owen, 19 Ed O'Donoghue, 20 Beau Robinson, 21 Nick Frisby, 22 Ben Lucas, 23 Chris Feauai-Sautia.

Date: Saturday, 1 March
Venue: ANZ Stadium in Sydney
Kick-off: 19:40 local time (08:40 GMT)
Referee: Glen Jackson (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: James Leckie (Australia), Will Houston (Australia)

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