Waratahs

Waratahs v Western Force preview

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Aussie Stadium, Sydney, 19.40 (08.40 GMT)


The Western Force have been the revelation of the competition so far, with two wins from three matches on their road trip and both their defeats being by a single point. The most disappointing aspect from their point would have been the loss, through an 80th minute Andr’ Pretorius penalty, at home against the Lions last week.


In fact a glance at their last eight games – four at the end of last year and the first four this year – shows just how competitive they have been. They’ve had three victories, two draws and three defeats.


As coach John Mitchell rightfully pointed out this week, there are some very good signs. For them it is a case of beginning to close out these one-point defeats, turning them into victories and kicking on.


According to Mitchell it is simply a psychological barrier that needs to be breached.


“We’ve got just a little bit to go upstairs, to toughen up and become a superior team in this competition,” Mitchell said.


“No one is going to hand it [that mental toughness] to you. You do have to go through this experience [of losing a few close games]. You have to go out there and learn and I believe this team will prosper with more experience. It’s exciting times.”


Exciting times it is, indeed.


The Waratahs, semi-finalists for the past two years and runners-up in 2005, have a proven track record.


They come off a bye after a disappointing start to the season – having beaten the Lions in the opening week, before coming up short against the Sharks and the Cheetahs. They have been playing good rugby in patches, but need to put in a concerted, 80-minute effort.


The key for the Waratahs will be teenage sensation Kurtley Beale. The fly-half ‘s flashy feet and proficient passing game, along with his innate ability to put players into gaps, have seen him being compared to two of Australia’s best ever number 10s – Mark Ella and Stephen Larkham.


He showed why when he bamboozled the opposition at times in attack in his debut Super 14 debut against the Lions – scoring what turned out to be a match-winning try with a chip-‘n-chase.


But with captain Phil Waugh out through injury, players like Wycliff Palu, Rocky Elsom and stand-in skipper Adam Freier will have to step up to the mark. Beale can’t do it all on his own.


Prediction: It is Sydney and the Waratahs do not give games up easily at home. The Force will be just that, a very powerful force, but we feel they may just fall short again … another heartbreaking, close defeat. The Waratahs by less than 10 points.


Teams:


Waratahs: 15 Peter Hewat, 14 Morgan Turinui, 13 Ben Jacobs, 12 Daniel Halangahu, 11 Lote Tuqiri, 10 Kurtley Beale, 9 Josh Valentine, 8 Wycliff Palu, 7 Beau Robinson, 6 Rocky Elsom, 5 Will Caldwell, 4 Dean Mumm, 3 Alastair Baxter, 2 Adam Freier (c), 1 Benn Robinson
Replacements: 16 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 17 Aaron Broughton-Rouse, 18 Ben Hand, 19 David Lyons, 20 Brett Sheehan, 21 Sam Norton-Knight, 22 Sam Harris


Western Force: 15 Drew Mitchell, 14 Scott Staniforth, 13 Ryan Cross, 12 Junior Pelesasa, 11 Cameron Shepherd, 10 Matt Giteau, 9 Matt Henjak, 8 Scott Fava, 7 Richard Brown, 6 David Pusey, 5 Nathan Sharpe (c), 4 Rudi Vedelago, 3 Troy Takiari, 2 Brendan Cannon, 1 Gareth Hardy
Replacements: 16 Tai McIsaac, 17 Angus Scott, 18 Luke Doherty, 19 David Pocock, 20 Chris O’Young, 21 James Hilgendorf, 22 Haig Sare


Referee: Paul Marks (Australia)
Touch judges: George Ayoub (Australia), James Scholtens (Australia)
Television match official: Geoff Acton (Australia)
Assessor: Ian Scotney (Australia)

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