Planet Rugby

Preview: Waratahs v Reds

11th July 2013 14:26

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james slipper reds v waratahs

50 caps: James Slipper

With national pride dented following Australia's series defeat to the Lions, the Waratahs and Reds face off in Sydney on Saturday.

Four of the Waratahs outfit in Benn Robinson, Sekope Kepu, Kane Douglas and Michael Hooper were all on the losing side last weekend for the Wallabies and will be bruised after a tough evening for the Australia pack turning out against the Reds.

A mixed season for the Waratahs sees the season finishing on a high as the first season under Michael Chieka.

Eight wins and seven losses in 2013 see the Tahs sat rightly in the middle of the table in eighth place.

Tries were in short supply last year but 43 scored in 2013 is the second highest total from any side in Super Rugby, trailing only last year's champions the Chiefs.

Given that strike rate it's not surprise to find the Waratahs in the top three for all attacking stats - clean breaks, defenders beaten, metres made and offloads.

None of those scores would have come without a strong platform, with a 91 per cent success rate at the scrum key to unleashing a potent backline.

Where the Waratahs have fallen way off the mark however is in defence. Their tackle success rate of 85 per cent is among the worst in the league this year, with only the Force beneath them. That leaky defensive line has hindered any playoff ambitions in 2013.

A run of four narrow defeats by less than seven points against the Brumbies, Rebels and Crusaders was ended on the Waratahs' last time out against the Force. Facing the Reds will provide a much sterner test.

In the week their head coach Ewen McKenzie was announced as the next Wallaby coach to replace Robbie Deans, the Reds currently hold the wildcard spot but are only five points behind Australian Conference leaders the Brumbies.

With just two losses in their last nine matches, the Reds are doing enough to remain in contention for end of season honours.

Tries have been in short supply for the Reds, with only 30 notched up - 13 less than the Waratahs. That spluttering attack has been a concern all season as Will Genia and Quade Cooper have been shut down.

The lineout - led by Rob Simmons in the absence of James Horwill - has had no such issues. Running at a success rate of 88.1 per cent, only the Bulls have a better operation in Super Rugby this year.

Cooper still holds the key however to the majority of the league's defences - nobody has made more offloads in 2013 than his 51 and only Ben Smith and Charles Piutau have made more carries. If the Reds can gain parity upfront to allow Cooper enough room to work, then the visitors can clinch this one.

Berrick Barnes will were the number 12 jersey in his final match for the Waratahs, but his Wallaby counterparts Adam Ashley-Cooper, Israel Folau and Wycliff Palu are not as lucky, with the trio missing out due to injury.

As a result, Cam Crawford switches from wing to full-back to accommodate the arrival of Tom Kingston out wide. Skipper Dave Dennis once again packs down at number eight, with Jed Holloway coming in on the flank.

Prop James Slipper will lead the Reds in the absence of James Horwill and Will Genia.

The Wallaby duo have been ruled out of the Reds' final round robin clash as a result of injuries suffered while on international duty. Slipper takes over the captain's armband as a result in what will be his 50th game for the Queensland franchise.

Ed O'Donoghue replaces Horwill in the second row, while Nick Frisby continues to wear the number nine jersey. Ace goal-kicker Mike Harris has returned from injury and will slot into the midfield alongside Ben Tapuai.

Prediction: Star Wallabies missing on both sides mean this one will lack a bit of a sparkle, but the Reds have the depth to emerge victorious. Reds by 5!

The teams:

Waratahs: 15 Cam Crawford, 14 Tom Kingston, 13 Rob Horne, 12 Berrick Barnes, 11 Peter Betham, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Brendan McKibbin, 8 Dave Dennis (captain), 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Jed Holloway, 5 Kane Douglas, 4 Sitaleki Timani, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 John Ulugia, 1 Benn Robinson.
Replacements: Luke Holmes, Jeremy Tilse, Will Skelton, Pat McCutcheon, Mitchell Chapman, Matt Lucas, Tom Carter, Ben Volavola (one to be omitted).

Reds: 15 Ben Lucas, 14 Rod Davies, 13 Ben Tapuai, 12 Mike Harris, 11 Luke Morahan, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Nick Frisby, 8 Jake Schatz, 7 Liam Gill, 6 Eddie Quirk, 5 Rob Simmons, 4 Ed O'Donoghue, 3 James Slipper (captain), 2 Saia Faingaa, 1 Greg Holmes.
Replacements: 16 Albert Anae, 17 Jono Owen, 18 Radike Samo, 19 Jarrad Butler, 20 Beau Robinson, 21 Anthony Faingaa, 22 Dom Shipperley.

Date: Saturday, July 13
Kick-off: 19:40
Venue: ANZ Stadium, Sydney
Referee: Steve Walsh (Australia)
Assistant referees: James Leckie (Australia), Ed Martin (Australia)
Television match official: George Ayoub (Australia)

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