• Hooper up for breakdown battle

    Michael Hooper's battle with Pat Lam will prove pivotal in deciding who comes out on top when the Waratahs face the Hurricanes in Sydney on Saturday.

    Hooper has been a nuisance at the breakdown all season for the Waratahs, winning penalties and turning over ball in some eye-catching performances. His low centre of gravity and technical prowess has drawn comparisons with George Smith, as he continues to stake his claim for a starting role in the Australian team in David Pocock's absence.

    He could do very little last season, though, as the Canes ran in four tries in a 41-29 win, a match that was more one-sided than the scoreboard suggests. The Hurricanes were also victorious the last time these two met in Sydney, but a run of five consecutive Waratahs victories prior to that suggests that this fixture hasn't always been kind to them.

    Waratahs coach Michael Cheika, who dodged a lengthy ban this week, has made four changes to his starting line-up. Wycliff Palu returns to add some experience to the forwards, with a number of positional changes coming as a result. Paddy Ryan will start at loosehead prop in place of Sekope Kepu, while Matt Carraro will get a start on the right wing.

    The only change to the Hurricanes line-up comes at reserve scrumhalf, where Billy Guyton replaces Chris Smylie on the bench.

    HEAD TO HEAD
    Overall: Waratahs 8, Hurricanes 11

    In Sydney: Waratahs 6, Hurricanes 3

    HOOPER'S STATS THAT MATTER
    99 – Number of tackles made this season (Rank 4)

    6 – Number of turnovers won this season (Rank 6)
    
73 – Number of carries made this season (Rank 24)
    Source: Vodacom Stats App

    Waratahs – 15 Israel Folau, 14 Matt Carraro, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Kurtley Beale, 11 Rob Horne, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Wycliff Palu, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Dave Dennis (c), 5 Jacques Potgieter, 4 Kane Douglas, 3 Paddy Ryan, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Benn Robinson.
    Subs: 16 Tolu Latu, 17 Jeremy Tilse, 18 Sekope Kepu, 19 Will Skelton, 20 Stephen Hoiles/Pat McCutcheon, 21 Brendan McKibbin, 22 Jono Lance, 23 Alofa Alofa/Cam Crawford.

    Hurricanes – 15 Andre Taylor, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Conrad Smith (c), 12 Alapati Leiua, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Victor Vito, 7 Jack Lam, 6 Faifili Levave, 5 James Broadhurst, 4 Jeremy Thrush, 3 Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Ben Franks.
    Subs: 16 Motu Matu'u, 17 Chris Eves, 18 Reggie Goodes, 19 Blade Thomson, 20 Ardie Savea, 21 Billy Guyton, 22 Tim Bateman, 23 Matt Proctor.

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    Photo: Gallo Images

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