Waugh wants youngsters to have a crack



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Waratahs captain Phil Waugh has given his baby backline a ‘licence to thrill’ in Saturday’s night’s Super 14 semi-final against the Sharks at the Sydney Football Stadium.

The Waratahs have called up rookie centre Rob Horne for the sudden-death showdown and Waugh has issued a confidence-boosting message to the history-chasing Waratahs.

“Back yourself,” Waugh pleaded.

Waugh himself will join an elite club with members like Matt Burke and Chris Whitaker and longtime back-row partner David Lyons who are the only players to have made 100 appearances for NSW, believes the Tahs have the perfect blend of youth and experience required to go all the way for the first time.

For a veteran Waugh is still fairly young at 28 said it was imperative the Waratahs didn’t die wondering against the Sharks.

He has urged his backline youngsters Rob Horne, rookie Tom Carter, 19-year-old five-eighth Kurtley Beale, second-season winger Lachie Turner and halfback revelation Luke Burgess – who are all playing their first Super semi-finals – to combat the inevitable butterflies with a touch of bravado.

“We just want guys, if they see something’s on, then to back themselves to take it,” Waugh told Foxsports.

“It’s more about confidence to play rather than being nervous and going into our shells.

“I think it’s also about having the confidence to play how we’ve been playing all year and take risks when they’re worth taking and knowing the team is behind you.”

Horne has come in for Matt Carraro at outside centre which means that star league recruit Timana Tahu will again start from the bench.

Last year’s acting captain Adam Freier replaces injured hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau (hand), with Al Manning the new reserve rake.

While Waugh has urged his backs to have a go if something was on, flanker Rocky Elsom had no doubt the game would be decided up front.

“That will probably be the hallmark of the game – their forwards trying to get into our forwards and vice versa,” Elsom said.

“It’s no secret that’s a big strength of theirs. They’ve got a great pack, one of the best packs in the comp.

“And we think we’ve got a pretty decent pack as well, so that will be where the damage is done.”

Indeed, the visiting Sharks boast of possessing the best forwards in the tournament, and McKenzie found it hard to disagree.

“If you write their names down on a piece of paper, they’re a pretty damn good scrum. There’s no question about that,” McKenzie said.

“They’ve got Springbok props on the bench. They’ve recruited very well in that area.

“They’ll be banking on their forwards. Knowing the way they play, they’ll be relying very heavily on their scrum, on their driving maul, on their kicking game.”

The Waratahs outclassed the Sharks 25-10 in Sydney just four weeks ago, running in four second-half tries.

“It was 3-0 at halftime. It wasn’t like we were well on top. We got away with it in the second half when we played some of our best football of the season,” McKenzie said.

“That might be coincidence or whatever. It’s up to us to try and reproduce that.

“They’ll rue that second half a bit. They’ll be better for this game for sure.

“They’re an experienced team now with semi-final experience. I don’t expect this game will be an easy game at all.”



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