Coach Daryl Gibson wants Will Skelton back firing on all cylinders after dropping the giant Wallabies lock for the NSW Waratahs’ Super Rugby derby against the Queensland Reds on Sunday.
Skelton’s relegation from the starting side to outside the game-day 23 overshadowed Bernard Foley’s return and a long-awaited debut for former NRL star Reece Robinson for the Easter showdown at Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium.
Skelton will instead play club rugby for Sydney University this weekend, with blindside flanker Dave Dennis moving into the Waratahs second row to partner Dean Mumm.
“Will’s had a slow start to the season and around that I really wanted him to get 80 minutes of game time under the belt,” Gibson said after Friday’s captain’s run in Sydney.
Dennis’s move to lock allows hard-hitting local young gun Jack Dempsey to also make his run-on debut.
Jed Holloway has been recalled to the starting line-up in the No.8 jersey after becoming the highest try-scoring reserve ever in a match for NSW with a hat-trick against the Highlanders last start.
Holloway will start at the expense of Wallabies veteran Wycliff Palu, who has been named on the bench.
Wallabies playmaker Foley’s return from a shoulder injury for his first appearance of the season has forced a reshuffle of the NSW backline.
Kurtley Beale switches to inside centre, where he and Foley formed a potent combination during the Waratahs’ charge to the 2014 title, with youngster David Horwitz relegated to the bench.
Robinson, in his first season in Super Rugby after defecting from Parramatta’s league ranks, replaces Matt Carraro on the wing.
The Waratahs’ most-capped player, prop Benn Robinson, is back as a reinforcement on the bench after suffering a broken nose in round one.
NSW Waratahs: Israel Folau, Reece Robinson, Rob Horne, Kurtley Beale, Zac Guildford, Bernard Foley, Nick Phipps, Jed Holloway, Michael Hooper (capt), Jack Dempsey, David Dennis, Dean Mumm, Angus Taavao, Tolu Latu, Paddy Ryan. Reserves: Hugh Roach, Benn Robinson, Tom Robertson, Sam Lousi, Wycliff Palu, Matt Lucas, David Horwitz, Matt Carraro.