Israel Folau will be back but coach Daryl Gibson is not prepared to rush another major backline weapon, five-eight Bernard Foley, into the starting team for NSW Waratahs’ final trial before the start of Super Rugby.
Folau has been named at fullback for Friday’s hitout against defending Super champions the Highlanders in Queenstown.
It will be Folau’s first game since the World Cup final, as he had ankle surgery after returning home from that tournament.
Foley, who only recently returned from a club stint in Japan, will come off the bench against the Highlanders.
“Just being back his first week, he (Foley) has got a lot to learn in terms of calling plays and patterns, but I expect him to get 20, 30 minutes, just ease his way in,” Gibson told AAP.
Foley will be behind Kurtley Beale, who has impressed Gibson with his play at five-eighth through the first two trials.
Gibson won’t guarantee Foley will play in the opening Super round home game against the Reds, given the pivot’s brief time back with the team.
“Putting Foley straight in after a week, there’s risks associated to that,” Gibson said.
“While he’s a quality player and I’m sure he can handle it, I’m a little undecided.
“In terms of KB (Beale), I’ve been really happy and impressed with his play there.
“He’s a player who has really grown in that position and it’s something that I want him to continue with and see if he can fill there if Bernard falls down.
“It’s a position he’s keen to show that he can play and he has the maturity and management skills to be a really good effective 10.”
Gibson stressed he wasn’t abandoning his plan to give Folau a run at outside centre and he could still turn up there during the Super tournament.
“I really want to ease Israel in, in terms of his first game back, he’s been training well,” Gibson said.
“It (fullback) is a position he knows. I don’t want to put any undue pressure on him starting in a new position.
“The headache I’ve got is there’s a number of outside backs of real quality there and it’s getting the right balance and the right mix.”
Rob Horne, who has established himself on the wing for the Waratahs and Wallabies over the past couple of seasons, has been restored to his former role of outside centre.
Two highly-rated youngsters in winger Andrew Kellaway and inside centre David Horwitz, will each start against the Highlanders.
Tighthead prop Paddy Ryan will be trialled at loosehead this week and lock Sam Lousi and No.8 Jed Holloway are emerging forwards being given a start on Friday.
Former All Blacks winger Zac Guildford, Foley and Wallabies forwards Will Skelton and Benn Robinson have all been named on the bench.
Waratahs team: Israel Folau, Reece Robinson, Rob Horne, David Horwitz, Andrew Kellaway, Kurtley Beale, Nick Phipps, Jed Holloway, Michael Hooper (C), David Dennis, Sam Lousi, Dean Mumm, Angus Taavao, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Paddy Ryan.