Sydney - The Waratahs have welcomed Wallabies hooker Tolu
Latu back for the crunch match against the
Blues as they bid to keep their Super Rugby playoffs hopes alive and
break Australia's winning drought against New Zealand.
The Blues are bottom of the New Zealand conference but still
managed to upset Australia's top side, the Brumbies, at their Canberra home
base last week in another embarrassing blow for the nation's rugby.
Australia's five Super Rugby sides are 0-15 against New
Zealand opponents this season, and genuine chances to snap the losing streak
are fast running out.
Largely woeful this campaign, the Daryl Gibson-coached
Waratahs may be even less equipped than the Brumbies to break New Zealand's
stranglehold but the Sydney side managed a scrappy win over the Queensland Reds
last week and head into the clash at Sydney Football Stadium with rare
A breakthrough win for the Waratahs on Saturday would put
further pressure on the Brumbies, who have hit the wall with three losses in
succession, so there is no shortage of motivation for the home side.
Latu's return from a shoulder injury at the expense of Hugh
Roach is one of four changes to the starting 15, with Jed Holloway returning at
No 8 and Reece Robinson replacing bulky winger Taqele Naiyaravoro.
Gibson's decision to drop Wallabies scrumhalf Nick Phipps to
the bench in favour of Jake Gordon as part of a curious rotation policy is
unlikely to generate as much applause, given Phipps's strong game against the
Reds last week.
"As I've said previously, we have three strong halves
and we think this combination is the right one to take on the Blues," the
under-pressure New Zealander coach said in a team release.
The Blues' tough win over the Brumbies kept their slim
playoffs hopes alive and coach Tana Umaga has kept faith in the starting side,
making only one change.
Bryn Gatland, son of British and Irish Lions coach Warren
Gatland, has been demoted to the bench in favour of flyhalf Piers Francis, who
was named in England's depleted squad for the two-test series in Argentina next
15 Israel Folau, 14 Reece Robinson, 13 Rob Horne, 12 David Horwitz, 11 Cam Clark, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Jake Gordon, 8 Jed Holloway, 7 Michael Hooper (captain), 6 Ned Hanigan, 5 David McDuling, 4 Dean Mumm, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Tolu Latu, 1 Tom Robertson
Substitutes 16 Hugh Roach, 17 Paddy Ryan, 18 Angus Taavao, 19 Will Skelton, 20 Michael Wells, 21 Nick Phipps, 22 Bryce Hegarty, 23 Irae Simone
15 Michael Collins, 14 Matt Duffie, 13 George Moala, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Rieko Ioane, 10 Piers Francis, 9 Augustine Pulu, 8 Akira Ioane, 7 Blake Gibson, 6 Steven Luatua, 5 Scott Scrafton, 4 Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 2 James Parsons (captain), 1 Pauliasi Manu
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