waratahs.com.au and James Mortimer 09.Jan.2014Getty Images
Wallabies Israel Folau, Adam Ashley-Cooper and Michael Hooper are expected to join fellow spring tourists Dave Dennis, Kane Douglas, Sekope Kepu, Benn Robinson, Tatafu Polata-Nau, Bernard Foley, Paddy Ryan, Nick Phipps and Peter Betham for the clash against Sir John Kirwan’s Blues line up. The game is also expected to feature new rugby recruit Benji Marshall, following his recent switch from league.
Only one place separated the two teams last season, with the Tahs finishing in ninth spot ahead of the 10th place Blues. In their only match-up of the 2013 Super season, the Waratahs fought back from a half-time deficit to allow Bernard Foley to seal a 30-27 win with a penalty after the bell.
A must–not-miss game, the Waratahs’ first match at home for 2014 is a rugby fan’s dream, with a likely clash of three of the most instinctive attacking footballers in any code, as Israel Folau and Kurtley Beale go head-to-head against newcomer Marshall, who is set to start his rugby career in the number 15 jumper.
NSW Waratahs assistant coach and former All Black Daryl Gibson says, “Watching a player with special skills like Marshall will make his initial transition to rugby worth the admission price alone.”
But the Blues aren’t just a one man team. Twelve players have international experience. Among the six current All Blacks is Frank Halai who topped the 2013 Super Rugby’s try scoring table with 10. Plus they’ve signed the experineced Ma’a Nonu for the next two years.
“Loaded with a good balance of experience and young exciting talent, the Blues look like a very competitive team this year and I expect them to challenge for the New Zealand conference title,” says Gibson.
A kiwi contest always provides an opportunity to test out set-pieces, defensive and attacking ploys as well as gaining some valuable tough-as-they-come match practice.
It’s a game any Waratahs supporter won’t want to miss. You might just be talking about this game in years to come.