NSW Waratahs coach Daryl Gibson had no hesitation rushing destructive No.8 Wycliff Palu straight back into his squad for Friday night’s Super Rugby showdown with the Brumbies.
Palu has recovered from a hamstring strain that sidelined him from the Waratahs’ season-opening 30-10 rout of the Queensland Reds, but returns to bolster the bench in what Gibson tips will be a torrid encounter at GIO Stadium.
Jed Hollaway retains his starting spot at No.8, but Palu replaces utility back Reece Robinson to give the Tahs six replacement forwards.
“There’s a reason behind Cliffy coming back for such an important fixture,” Gibson said.
“I’ve elected a 6-2 bench. The reason is we know it’s going to be a brutal, physical encounter and I need lots of resources off the bench that I can call on to provide impact and Cliff, it’s the perfect situation for him.
“He’s looked particularly menacing at training, he’s a physical guy and his kind of spirit and mentality is something we’re going to need.”
Waratahs captain Michael Hooper is playing down the importance of his personal duel with the Brumbies’ champion openside flanker David Pocock, but even Gibson is excited.
“That’s going to be a fascinating encounter. Obviously two contrasting players who combined well at the World Cup,” he said.
“I think there’s contests all over the park. Some of the best players in Australia, a lot of them teammates in the Wallaby team to go head-to-head. That adds intrigue in itself.
“We know it’s going to be a physical encounter for the forwards in particular. It’s going to be combative and I want extra resources in that area.”
Brumbies prop Scott Sio is demanding the home team muscles up after suffering four straight losses to their Australian conference rivals.
“We have to come together as a group, draw a line in the sand, and say `enough is enough’ and really step up to them,” Sio said.
“You don’t win unless you win the physical battle and it’s something we’re looking to rectify.”