Barnes third time lucky

2012-03-07 08:04

Sydney - The Waratahs have named Berrick Barnes at inside-centre for Saturday's clash against the Highlanders, forcing last week's two-try hero, Tom Carter, to the bench.

Barnes has at last overcome his groin problems and will make his first Super Rugby appearance this season under cover at the new Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin.

The Waratahs were hopeful against the Reds and Rebels that Barnes would be playing, only for them to decide midweek each time that it would be wise to rest their Wallabies midfielder until he was 100 percent fit. The Waratahs have decided this year they will not play footballers if they have ''slight niggles'', believing that having unfit players will destabilise their campaign.

But Barnes did everything required during yesterday's two-hour session, being involved in every team manoeuvre, which saw him replace Carter at inside-centre, who ran with the reserves. Barnes will team up Rob Horne in the centres, but won't take over the goalkicking duties from five-eighth Daniel Halangahu.

In the forwards, the Waratahs used the same pack on Tuesday, except that back-rower Pat McCutcheon ran at openside, instead of Chris Alcock who sat out training due to an eye wound.

McCutcheon, returning from a calf tear, is expected to share the No.7 jersey with Alcock - both anticipated to play half a game against an opponent that has been one of the most impressive all-round performers of the first two rounds. The Waratahs will require every able forward to keep the Highlanders at bay, especially as they have shown that their speed and intensity at the breakdown is of the highest calibre.

And the Highlanders have become even more of a force at their new state-of-the-art home ground, that has quickly turned into a rugby coliseum, prompting their halfback Aaron Smith to say it is like having two extra players on their side.

While Barnes was yesterday delighted he was again available for selection, he knows what confronts him in Dunedin will be somewhat unappealing.

''This ground will be even more of a cauldron [than Carisbrook], because at least the fans will want to turn up there, because they're not getting rained on every second game,'' Barnes said yesterday. ''They've also got a good side, and are probably the form team of the competition. They are extremely physical at the breakdown, and have more back threats this year, which makes them lot more of a dangerous proposition.''

The stadium also gives the Highlanders the chance to be more expansive. ''In the past, the Highlanders have been able to slow it down and played a forward-oriented game,'' Barnes said.

''But with their new stadium, they don't have to play that style of game. They can really open it up and play fast, attacking rugby. Across the board they have guys who are really agile, including in the pack.'

Among those delighted Barnes is at last available is Waratahs backs coach Alan Gaffney.

''Tom Carter has played pretty well the last two games, but Berrick brings something else to the equation,'' Gaffney said.

''Having two ball players in any team is an added bonus. And having a ball player of the quality of Berrick is fantastic.''



Waratahs: 15 Bernard Foley, 14 Tom Kingston, 13 Rob Horne, 12 Berrick Barnes, 11 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 10 Daniel Halangahu (captain), 9 Sarel Pretorius, 8 Wycliff Palu, 7 Pat McCutcheon, 6 Dave Dennis, 5 Kane Douglas, 4 Dean Mumm, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Benn Robinson

Substitutes: 16 John Ulugia, 17 Paddy Ryan, 18 Lopeti Timani, 19 Chris Alcock, 20 Brendan McKibbin, 21 Tom Carter, 22 Brackin Karuaria-Henry

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