The Waratahs will give Bernard Foley until Thursday to prove his fitness for their opening round clash against the Force, as the flyhalf battles concussion symptoms.
Foley suffered a head knock in the first half hour of NSW’s battle with the Highlanders last Thursday and is still feeling the impact five days later.
The Waratahs have a day off on Wednesday and will make a call on the Wallabies playmaker after their Thursday training session, but coach Daryl Gibson said they wouldn’t be taking any undue risks.
“He was a little foggy on Sunday and then obviously working through his (concussion) protocols,” he said.
“(We’re) very mindful of that, don’t want to put a player out there who’s not fit.
“Each day he’s getting better, so we’ll just see how he is on Thursday.
“I guess there’s so much evidence around concussions and we’re very mindful of the protocols that are in place (to) protect the players’ safety and so we’ll follow those and make the correct decision.”
If Foley is ruled out after Thursday’s session, backup Bryce Hegarty will step into the starting role, though winger Reece Robinson could pick up the kicking duties, after a seven-from-nine return against the Highlanders.
Nick Phipps has been given the starting halfback spot for round one, with Matt Lucas on the bench and Jake Gordon missing out, a decision Gibson said was about experience.
“We’re very competitive there, I’m very comfortable selecting anyone of them to start,” he said.
Rob Horne will play his first match in close to six months, after a shoulder injury suffered in the first Bledisloe last year.
Irae Simone will have the first crack at the number 12 spot, over David Horwitz, after impressing in both of his trial outings in the preseason.
Andrew Kellaway, Bernard Foley and Jack Dempsey have all shaken off injury concerns to be named in the starting lineup.
Michael Wells will line up at number eight, alongside Michael Hooper and Jack Dempsey in the back row.
Strong trial form has earned Brad Wilkin and David Lolohea prospective Super Rugby debuts off the bench, the latter after a major physical overhaul.
“He’s come from club rugby, had an excellent NRC, and he’s really changed himself,” he said.
“He’s lost a ton of weight, was invited to go on the Australian Barbarians tour and he continues to grow and deserves his spot on the bench and I fully trust him to come on and do a job there for us.”
The Waratahs will wear black armbands and observe a minute’s silence to honour the life of former Wallaby Dan Vickerman before Saturday’s clash with the Force.
The Waratahs host the Force at Allianz Stadium on Saturday, kicking off at 7:45pm AEDT, LIVE on FOX SPORTS.
Waratahs to take on the Force on Saturday February 25, 7:45pm AEDT.
1. Tom Robertson
2. Tolu Latu
3. Sekope Kepu
4. Dean Mumm
5. WIll Skelton
6. Jack Dempsey
7. Michael Hooper
8. Michael Wells
9. Nick Phipps
10. Bernard Foley
11. Rob Horne
12. Irae Simone
13. Israel Folau
14. Reece Robinson
15. Andrew Kellaway
Reserves (one to be omitted)
16. Hugh Roach
17. Paddy Ryan
18. David Lolohea
19. Ned Hanigan
20. Brad Wilkin
21. Matt Lucas
22. Bryce Hegarty
23. Taqele Naiyaravoro
24. David Horwitz
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