In a “do or die” clash to stay alive in the finals race, Waratahs coach Daryl Gibson has elected to roll the dice and continue fielding his strongest team against the Jaguares on Saturday night at Bankwest Stadium.
Gibson still has players due a week off as per the agreement with the Wallabies – including Sekope Kepu and Rob Simmons – but aware NSW can’t afford another loss in the four games left, both were named by the coach in an unchanged starting XV to meet the Argentinians.
In changes on the bench, Andrew Tuala replaces Tolu Latu (stood down) and Jed Holloway returns from suspension in place of Tom Staniforth.
All other Wallabies players in the NSW squad have had at least one week off, and though there is no information available, there is also some chance high-minute stars Michael Hooper, Bernard Foley and Kurtley Beale may be down for a second week off too.
Sitting three points behind the Rebels on the Aussie conference ladder, Gibson said he had no other choice but to play “the short game”.
“We are in the fight for our lives in terms of staying alive in the comp and the conference. This game is incredibly important and we need to pick our best side,” Gibson said.
“We haven’t thrown it away, we are very mindful (of the resting agreement). But we also need to be in a position to stay alive in the competition. First and foremost I want to be able to give the team the opportunity to do that and we see that through picking our strongest side.
“They (player resting weeks) will be coming somewhere. It’s just a matter of getting us to a point where we remain competitive. I have debated the strategy of resting our guys through different games but I have got to play the short game, not the long game.”
Asked if he was crossing his fingers NSW don’t arrive at the last game needing to win but also needing to rest five players, Gibson said: “Fingers crossed we do need to win our last game because it means we are still in the comp.”
Gibson said it was nice to be able to pick an unchanged team, and to hopefully roll forward from last weekend’s win over Queensland with the same momentum.
“We have named a fairly consistent line up for most of the games in recent weeks and I think that’s really helping us. The team is settling down and knowing their roles well,” Gibson said.
A “remorseful” Holloway returns fully fit after overcoming a rib injury.
Gibson said Latu had spoken to the team and expressed his regret for being charged with drink-driving, and stood down until his June 6 court date.
“He is very apologetic for his behaviour and what that has caused not only to him and his family but to the team. He made a very heartfelt apology this morning which was nice,” Gibson said.
The Waratahs take on the Jaguares at Bankwest Stadium on Saturday night at 7.45pm. LIVE on FoxSports, Kayo and RUGBY.com.au Radio.
WARATAHS V JAGUARES
1. Tom Roberston
2. Damien Fitzpatrick
3. Sekope Kepu
4. Ned Hanigan
5. Rob Simmons
6. Lachlan Swinton
7. Michael Hooper
8. Michael Wells
9. Nick Phipps
10. Bernard Foley
11. Cam Clark
12. Karmichael Hunt
13. Adam Ashley-Cooper
14. Alex Newsome
15. Kurtley Beale
16. Andrew Tuala
17. Harry Johnson-Holmes
18. Chris Talakai
19. Jed Holloway
20. Will Miller
21. Jake Gordon
22. Lalakai Foketi
23. Curtis Rona
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