Israel Folau can help the Waratahs gain revenge for their opening-round defeat to the Force when the teams meet again in Perth on Saturday. SIMON BORCHARDT reports.
The Force shocked the champions 25-13 in Sydney on 15 February, but have since lost 10 matches in a row – their worst ever run in Vodacom Super Rugby – to find themselves last on the combined log.
The Tahs, meanwhile, have slowly moved up to sixth and a win against the Force, combined with a loss for the Brumbies at Newlands, would see Michael Cheika's men move to the top of the Australian conference for the first time this season.
With dry conditions predicted for the Australian derby, Folau will have an important attacking role to play for the Waratahs. His 102 running metres during the 13-10 win against the Brumbies in Canberra last weekend took him to 962 for the season (just one more than Bulls fullback Jesse Kriel), according to the Vodacom Rugby App. He has also made the joint-most carries (140) and the joint-most try assists (six), while scoring two tries himself.
Both sides have made two changes to their starting XV for this match.
For the Waratahs, Fijian wing Taqele Naiyaravoro replaces Peter Betham, who moves to the bench, and hooker Tolu Latu comes in for Tatafu Polota-Nau, who takes a break.
Adam Coleman replaces Wilhelm Steenkamp at No 5 lock for the Force, with Junior Rasolea at inside centre ahead of Luke Burton.
HEAD TO HEAD
Overall: Waratahs 9, Force 4, Draw 1
In Perth: Waratahs 6, Force 1
STATS AND FACTS
– The Force have lost 10 matches in a row since beating the Waratahs on the opening weekend of the season; their worst ever run of form.
– The Western Australian side has been limited to single figures in the first half of 10 of their 11 games this year.
– The Force have won their last two games against the 2014 champions; each by 12-point margins.
– The Tahs have claimed three wins in a row for the first time this season; but they have come at a combined margin of just 10 points. Their first four victories this year each came by 10 or more points.
– The Force rank first in average time in possession (17 minutes, 49 seconds) but second-last in points per game (16.5) – with only the Reds averaging fewer (13).
|Team||Top point-scorer||Top try-scorer||Most metres gained||Most tackles|
|Force||Bernard Foley (93)||Peter Betham, Rob Horne (4)||Israel Folau (962)||Michael Hooper (121)|
|Waratahs||Luke Burton (39)||Luke Morahan (3)||Dane Haylett-Petty (579)||Kyle Godwin (85)|
Force – 15 Dane Haylett-Petty, 14 Luke Morahan, 13 Kyle Godwin, 12 Junior Rasolea, 11 Nick Cummins, 10 Sias Ebersohn, 9 Ryan Louwrens, 8 Ben McCalman, 7 Matt Hodgson (c), 6 Angus Cottrell, 5 Adam Coleman, 4 Steve Mafi, 3 Tetera Faulkner, 2 Nathan Charles, 1 Pekahou Cowan.
Subs: 16 Heath Tessmann, 17 Chris Heiberg, 18 Guy Millar, 19 Wilhelm Steenkamp, 20 Kane Koteka, 21 Alby Mathewson, 22 Luke Burton, 23 Marcel Brache.
Waratahs – 15 Israel Folau, 14 Taqele Naiyaravoro, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Kurtley Beale, 11 Rob Horne, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Wycliff Palu, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Jacques Potgieter, 5 Dave Dennis (c), 4 Will Skelton, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Tolu Latu, 1 Benn Robinson.
Subs (one to be omitted): 16 Hugh Roach, 17 Jeremy Tilse, 18 Paddy Ryan, 19 Mitchell Chapman, 20 Tala Gray, 21 Pat McCutcheon, 22 Brendan McKibbin, 23 Matt Carraro, 24 Peter Betham.
Photo: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images