Waratahs head coach Daryl Gibson has named Israel Folau to start his first match since the Rugby World Cup final when the Tahs play the Highlanders in their third and final Super Rugby pre-season trial in Queenstown.
Wallabies fullback Folau is one of six changes to the side and returns to the field at fullback and will play his first match since injuring his ankle in the Rugby World Cup.
After a standout performance in last week’s trial against the Chiefs, Andrew Kellaway has been handed an opportunity on the left wing, while the rest of the backline remains the same.
Paddy Ryan will be trialled as loosehead prop this week, with Gibson keen to witness his ability in covering both sides of the scrum.
This week’s team also sees the reintroduction of Sam Lousi as lock having impressed across pre-season training.
Dave Dennis and Jed Holloway also make their way back into the side as flanker and number eight respectively.
Returning to Australian shores from his stint in Japan, Bernard Foley will re-join his Waratahs teammates for the first time this season on the bench.
The reserves list once again features a range of powerful impact options this week with the likes of Zac Guildford, Bryce Hegarty, Matt Carraro, Will Skelton, Benn Robinson and Tolu Latu.
Gibson said he was still trialling different combinations as competition heats up ahead of Super Rugby round one next week., “This will be the last opportunity for players to push for selection ahead of the season,” Gibson said.
“There has been a distinct change in attitude as the season grows nearer. We have shifted our focus, correcting our off-field components in order to benefit what we do on the field.
“The Highlanders are the reigning Super Rugby champions and are therefore the perfect opposition for us in our final trial.”
1. Paddy Ryan, 2. Tatafu Polota-Nau, 3. Angus Ta’avao, 4. Dean Mumm, 5. Sam Lousi, 6. David Dennis, 7. Michael Hooper (C), 8. Jed Holloway, 9. Nick Phipps, 10. Kurtley Beale, 11. Andrew Kellaway, 12. David Horwitz, 13. Rob Horne, 14. Reece Robinson, 15. Israel Folau
Replacements:, 16. Tolu Latu, 17. Jeremy Tilse, 18. Benn Robinson, 19. Will Skelton, 20. Jack Dempsey, 21. Matt Lucas, 22. Bryce Hegarty, 23. Zac Guildford, 24. Jake Gordon, 25. Matt Carraro, 26. Senio Toleafoa, 27. Matt Sandell, 28. Hugh Roach, 29. Ned Hanigan, 30. Brad Wilkin, 31. Bernard Foley, 32. Harry Jones