Waratahs utility back Kurtley Beale returns to action when his side face the Brumbies in their Australian derby on Saturday.
An elbow injury ruled Beale out of his side’s Round Six loss to the Rebels in Sydney and after their Round Seven bye, Beale appears to be on course to make his comeback this weekend.
“Kurtley, if he continues to get through [sessions], then hopefully he’ll be available for selection,” Waratahs assistant coach Cameron Blades told AAP on Tuesday.
“They’ll assess him after today’s training but he certainly got through that one reasonably well.”
Having Beale back will be a tremendous boost for the 2013 champions, who have found the going tough this season. They are languishing in third place on the Australian Conference table, behind the Brumbies and Rebels, although they have played one match less than their Canberra and Melbourne rivals.
Veteran lock Dean Mumm highlighted the importance of victory over the Brumbies, who claimed a 32-15 triumph over the Waratahs in Canberra in Round Two.
“You must win the games at home and you particularly must win the games at home against the other Aussie teams,” he said.
A win against the Brumbies is a must for the Waratahs who are in danger of suffering three successive home defeats – after losses to the Highlanders and Rebels – for the first time since 2007.
“We can’t afford it,” added Mumm.
“It’s a game against a team in your own conference so they’re even more important to win.
“But it’s a huge game for us. It’s the start of a good run of games but you’re only as good as the result this weekend against the team that’s leading our conference.”
The Brumbies have made a number of changes for their clash with the Waratahs in Sydney this Saturday.
Both alterations are forced following the two-match suspension of David Pocock and the retirement of Ita Vaea due to health reasons.
Jarrad Butler returns for the first time since the Brumbies round three clash against the Force and will start the match at openside flanker.
Butler has missed the Brumbies passed three matches due to a knee injury suffered at training in Cape Town.
Jordan Smiler will start the match at number eight, replacing Vaea. Smiler, a versatile back-rower has played in all of the Brumbies matches in 2016 and started in the number eight jersey in the Brumbies Round Three clash against the Stormers in Cape Town, following the injury to Butler.
With both Butler and Smiler starting, rookie Michael Wells returns to the bench. He made a brief appearance against the Stormers in Cape Town to record his Super Rugby debut and will return to Sydney for the first time since linking with the Brumbies on an Extended Playing Squad contract.
Ben Alexander will become the Brumbies third most-capped player in history when he takes to the field.
He currently sits equal with Stirling Mortlock with 123 appearances for the ACT-based franchise. Alexander made his Super Rugby debut in round three of the 2008 Super Rugby season against the Queensland Reds, scoring a try after coming on as a replacement.
Waratahs: 15 Andrew Kellaway, 14 Reece Robinson, 13 Israel Folau, 12 Kurtley Beale, 11 Matt Carraro, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Jed Holloway, 7 Michael Hooper (c), 6 Jack Dempsey, 5 Will Skelton, 4 Dean Mumm, 3 Tom Robertson, 2 Hugh Roach, 1 Benn Robinson
Replacements: 16 James Hilterbrand, 17 Paddy Ryan, 18 Angus Ta’avao, 19 Sam Lousi, 20 Wycliff Palu, 21 David Dennis, 22 Matt Lucas, 23 David Horwitz
Brumbies: 15 Aidan Toua, 14 Robbie Coleman, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Matt Toomua, 11 Joseph Tomane, 10 Christian Lealiifano, 9 Tomás Cubelli, 8 Jordan Smiler, 7 Jarrad Butler, 6 Scott Fardy, 5 Sam Carter, 4 Rory Arnold, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 Scott Sio.
Replacements: 16 Josh Mann-Rea, 17 Allan Alaalatoa, 18 Les Leuluaialii-Makin, 19 Tom Staniforth, 20 Michael Wells, 21 Joe Powell, 22 James Dargaville, 23 Nigel Ah Wong
Date: Saturday, April 16
Venue: Allianz Stadium, Sydney
Kick-off: 19:45 local (09:45 GMT)
Referee: Nick Briant
Assistant Referees: Brendon Pickerill, Michael Hogan
TMO: Ian Smith