PREVIEW: Waratahs v Blues

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Friday, May 5, 2017    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

ROUND 11: Waratahs v Blues, Sunday 30 April, 9.40pm (NZT), Allianz Stadium, Sydney
Both sides are scrapping for survival in the competition. The Waratahs need to close the gap on the Brumbies if they are to finish top qualifier in the Australian Conference while the Blues are trying to boost their way up the ladder to potentially claim a fourth placing. The Blues have shown a taste for Australian success having beaten the Force 24-15 at home and the Brumbies 18-12 away but also have close losses to the Highlanders (20-26) and the Hurricanes (24-28) in their last four games. The Waratahs have only their win last week over the Reds while they have lost to the Crusaders (22-41), the Hurricanes (28-38) and the Kings (24-26).

It won't be only in ball retention that the Blues will need to be disciplined in Sydney. They can't afford to give away needless penalties in their own half. Apart from the fact there is always the option the Waratahs will kick to the corners to employ the lineout drive there is the small matter of first five-eighths Bernard Foley's goal-kicking boot. He kicked his side to a win over the Reds last weekend and will punish the Blues should they transgress.

If the Blues are the lowest ranked New Zealand side at the moment it is only right the Waratahs should use the chance to employ some rotation in their squad. With that in mind they have been playing down the fact a win over the Blues would be the first in 16 games for any Australian side. They are just concerned about their own game on the night they say. That was the same comment Blues captain James Parsons gave when thrown the same statistic. With their rotation in mind the Waratahs have hooker Tolu Latu back for the game after a shoulder injury prevented him from playing the Reds. Jake Gordon will be at halfback with Nick Phipps off the bench. No.8 Jed Holloway returns to the starting line-up while Reece Robinson will have another chance on the wing as a result of Taqele Naiyaravoro suffering a broken hand.

Waratahs: 1.Tom Robertson, 2.Tolu Latu, 3.Sekope Kepu, 4.Dean Mumm, 5.David McDuling, 6.Ned Hanigan, 7.Michael Hooper (captain), 8.Jed Holloway, 9.Jake Gordon, 10.Bernard Foley, 11.Cam Clark, 12.David Horwitz, 13.Rob Horne, 14.Reece Robinson, 15.Israel Folau.

Substitutes: 16.Hugh Roach, 17.Paddy Ryan, 18.Angus Ta'avao, 19.Will Skelton, 20.Michael Wells, 21.Nick Phipps, 22.Bryce Hegarty, 23.Irae Simone.

Blues: 1.Pauliasi Manu, 2.James Parsons, 3.Charlie Faumuina, 4.Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 5.Scott Scrafton, 6.Steven Luatua, 7.Blake Gibson, 8.Akira Ioane, 9.Augustine Pulu, 10.Piers Francis, 11.Rieko Ioane, 12.Sonny Bill Williams, 13. George Moala, 14.Matt Duffie, 15.Michael Collins,

Substitutes: 16.Matt Moulds, 17.Ofa Tu'ungafasi, 18.Sione Mafileo, 19.Leighton Price, 20.Murphy Taramai, 21.Billy Guyton, 22.Bryn Gatland, 23.Melani Nanai.