The NSW Waratahs have been dealt a huge blow ahead of their Super Rugby semi-final against the Highlanders with star playmaker Kurtley Beale ruled out of Saturday’s clash.
Beale has been battling a quadriceps injury, only managing a brief jog on Thursday at training.
His place has been taken by Matt Carraro, a last-minute replacement for Beale in the final regular-season game of the year against Queensland.
The Waratahs released a statement a couple of hours after Thursday’s session to say Beale had not been able to complete the tasks set for him at training.
It’s believed Beale was initially expected to have a couple of fitness tests leading up to the match, but the latest setback has ruled him out of the match with the Otago-based Highlanders.
“He had a little run around today and it might be a precautionary thing he held off that last bit,” said Waratahs lock Will Skelton.
The Waratahs will be forced to play a less dynamic midfield game in favour of a power-based advantage-line system, similar to what they used against the Reds in the last round of the regular season.
Waratahs halfback Nick Phipps, who said shortly after the session he was confident Beale would play, backed the defending Super Rugby champions’ depth to come to the fore.
“He’d be a massive loss for us, but we are quite confident in our squad at the moment,” Phipps said.
“We’ve got a lot of players that can fill those roles. Cheik’s been quite lucky that he can pick and choose depending on who we are playing. We’ve got some great 12s that have been looking for an opportunity for the last two years.”
Phipps is tipping an expansive game against arguably the most-exciting team in Super Rugby.
“They are a bit like us, they like to throw the ball around and have a crack and it should be entertaining for the crowd to come and watch,” he said.
NSW Waratahs: Israel Folau, Taqele Naiyaravoro, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Matt Carraro, Rob Horne, Bernard Foley, Nick Phipps, Wycliff Palu, Michael Hooper, Jacques Potgieter, David Dennis (capt), Will Skelton, Sekope Kepu, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Benn Robinson. Res: Jeremy Tilse, Paddy Ryan, Mitchell Chapman, Stephen Hoiles, Patrick McCutcheon, Brendan McKibbin, Jono Lance, Peter Betham.