No Israel Folau and Bernard Foley just yet, but skipper Michael Hooper, Kurtley Beale and Nick Phipps are among key Wallabies returning for the NSW Waratahs’ second Super Rugby pre-season trial match.
Hooper is joined in the starting forward pack by returning fellow Wallabies Tatafu-Polota-Nau and Dean Mumm for Friday’s clash with the Chiefs in Rotorua, New Zealand.
With Foley only just back at training following his Japan stint, Beale will start at five-eighth alongside halfback Phipps.
Coach Daryl Gibson retained former All Blacks winger Zac Guildford at fullback after he impressed there in last weekend’s 21-17 win over the Brumbies in Wagga Wagga, with former NRL speedster Reece Robinson again on the right wing and Rob Horne making his season start at outside centre.
Returning from surgery on the ankle injury that marred his World Cup, Folau only returned to training with the team this week.
But he and Foley are to join the Waratahs squad in New Zealand following Friday’s match in a sign that they will play the final trial against the Highlanders in Queenstown on Friday week.
Youngster Jack Dempsey gets a chance to impress at blindside flanker this week, replacing Dave Dennis who is still recovering from concussion symptoms suffered against the Brumbies.
Hooper adds valuable experience to a raw backrow, with former Australian Sevens representative Brad Wilkin getting a shot at No.8 after Jed Holloway was also concussed last week.
“Away games are obviously a bit tougher, but the trip to New Zealand will only stand us in good stead,” said Gibson, who is going into his first season as Waratahs head coach.
NSW Waratahs: Zac Guildford, Reece Robinson, Rob Horne, David Horwitz, Matt Carraro, Kurtley Beale, Nick Phipps, Brad Wilkin, Michael Hooper (capt), Jack Dempsey, Will Skelton, Dean Mumm, Angus Taavao, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Jeremy Tilse. Res: Tolu Latu, Benn Robinson, Paddy Ryan, Senio Toleafoa, Ned Hanigan, Matt Lucas, Bryce Hegarty, Andrew Kellaway, Jake Gordon, Harry Jones, Hugh Roach, Matt Sandell