Dempsey replaces Palu for NSW Waratahs

NSW Waratahs coach Daryl Gibson has opted to start young lion Jack Dempsey rather than old bull Wycliff Palu in the back row for their critical Super Rugby game against the Blues in Auckland on Friday.

No.8 Palu, who’ll be playing his final game for the Tahs if they lose, drops to the bench, with Dempsey coming in at blindside flanker and Dean Mumm switching from that position to the second-row.

Dave Dennis moves from lock to No.8.

There was one enforced change to the starting backline, with winger Reece Robinson coming in for the suspended Taqele Naiyaravoro.

Uncapped James Stewart goes on to the bench.

The Tahs must win at Eden Park on Friday to have any hope of pipping the Brumbies for the Australian conference title and advancing to the playoffs.

“It can be a daunting venue, but for us it’s also a great challenge,” Foley said.

Asked why Eden Park was so daunting, Foley said: “when you go for a Bledisloe (Cup match) those games, the crowd are really hostile, they are against you.

“I think the Blues can really feed off the crowd atmosphere, especially when they play an attractive style of rugby.

“That’s where we’ve talked about our defensive systems and our structures in nullifying their attacking threats and in that regard you take away the crowd.”

He wasn’t concerned there would be a psychological challenge for the Waratahs who have just won once in nine Super Rugby games at Eden Park.

“Not really. You look at some of these young (Waratahs) guys, they are that young, they don’t have any psychological issues whatsoever,” Foley said.

Foley admitted the Waratahs’ offloading game had been inconsistent.

“At times this year those offloads, those playing through contact, has really worked well for us and at other times it’s maybe hindered our progress,” Foley said.

“There’s a couple of times we’ve probably let teams off the hook by playing that sort of style, but it’s something we’ve been persisting with and it’s something we’re not going to shy away from.”

Waratahs team: Andrew Kellaway, Reece Robinson, Israel Folau, Rob Horne, Matt Carraro, Bernard Foley, Nick Phipps, Dave Dennis, Michael Hooper (capt), Jack Dempsey, Will Skelton, Dean Mumm, Tom Robertson, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Paddy Ryan. Res: Hugh Roach, Jeremy Tilse, Angus Ta’avao, Sam Lousi, Wycliff Palu, Matt Lucas, David Horwitz, Jim Stewart.

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