Waratahs head coach Daryl Gibson has made five changes to his starting line-up for Saturday’s crucial Super Rugby clash with the Hurricanes in Sydney.
The round 16 match will be one of the biggest games all year for the Waratahs as they sit equal top of the Australian conference on the cusp of the Super Rugby final series.
Powerful number eight Wycliff Palu makes a welcome return to the starting side injecting some added experience and leadership to the back row together with Dean Mumm and team captain Michael Hooper.
Club captain, Dave Dennis will pair up with Will Skelton in the second row, while in the backs, Matt Carraro returns to the starting XV, joining Taqele Naiyaravoro on the wing.
Jack Dempsey, Matt Lucas and Reece Robinson will provide welcome support off the bench for the Tahs this weekend following their impressive performances against the Sunwolves in the last round.
Dean Mumm is set to run our for his 100th Super Rugby game this weekend, while Matt Carraro will celebrate his 50th Super Rugby and Waratahs match.
The Waratahs and Hurricanes have faced each other on 20 occasions, winning 10 games each, with the Tahs securing six out of the last eight meetings.
Tighthead prop Chris Eves and midfielder Willis Halaholo have been called up to the Hurricanes starting XV for Saturday’s crunch Super Rugby match against the Waratahs in Sydney.
Eves comes into the starting team for Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, who broke his arm during the Hurricanes’ 37-27 win over the Blues last weekend, while Halaholo earns a promotion from the reserves after Vince Aso was ruled out with a calf strain.
Experienced prop Ben May and midfielder Ngani Laumape, who has recovered from a groin strain, come into the reserves, while openside Callum Gibbins returns to the squad after skipping the Blues match due to concussion.
Hurricanes coach Chris Boyd believes it is a great opportunity for the players who had been called up to the starting side.
“Chris did a great job for us against the Blues when he came on early in the match and Willis has been a really effective impact player all season, so I’m very comfortable with both of those changes,” he said.
Eves (left) has made 12 appearances this season and will make his third start of the season against the Waratahs after previously playing at loosehead against the Force and Kings.
Halaholo, who has appeared 10 times in 2016, also makes his third start after wearing the number 13 jersey against the Kings and Jaguares.
Boyd said the players were fully aware of the importance of the Waratahs match.
“It’s fairly obvious the points table is very tight in the New Zealand Conference and we are only a few weeks away from the playoffs, so I think a lot of teams know every point will be important from here on,” he added.
The Hurricanes are third in the New Zealand Conference, just two points behind leaders the Chiefs, one behind the Crusaders, and sixth on the overall competition ladder.
The Waratahs are also in the playoff hunt, tied on points with the Brumbies at the top of the Australian Conference and come into the penultimate round of the regular season off the back of big wins against the Chiefs and Sunwolves.
Last time the Hurricanes played the Waratahs was in Wellington last season with the visitors winning a high scoring match 29-24.
2015: Waratahs won 29-24 in Wellington
2014: Waratahs won 39-30 in Sydney
2013: Hurricanes won 41-29 in Wellington
2012: Hurricanes won 33-12 in Sydney
2010: Waratahs won 32-16 in Sydney
2009: Waratahs won 26-22 in Wellington
2008: Waratahs won 20-3 in Sydney
2007: Waratahs won 38-14 in Wellington
Waratahs: 15 Andrew Kellaway, 14 Taqele Naiyaravoro, 13 Israel Folau, 12 Rob Horne, 11 Matt Carraro, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Wycliff Palu, 7 Michael Hooper (c), 6 Dean Mumm, 5 Will Skelton, 4 David Dennis, 3 Tom Robertson, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Paddy Ryan
Replacements: 16 Hugh Roach, 17 Jeremy Tilse, 18 Angus Ta’avao, 19 Sam Lousi, 20 Jack Dempsey, 21 Matt Lucas, 22 David Horwitz, 23 Reece Robinson
Hurricanes: 15 James Marshall, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Matt Proctor, 12 Willis Halaholo, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Victor Vito, 7 Ardie Savea, 6 Brad Shields, 5 Michael Fatialofa, 4 Vaea Fifita, 3 Chris Eves, 2 Dane Coles (c), 1 Reg Goodes
Replacements: 16 Ricky Riccitelli, 17 Ben May, 18 Loni Uhila, 19 Mark Abbott, 20 Callum Gibbins, 21 Jamison Gibson-Park, 22 Ngani Laumape, 23 Jason Woodward
Date: Saturday, July 9
Venue: Allianz Stadium, Sydney
Kick-off: 19:40 local (09:40 GMT)
Referee: Chris Pollock
Assistant Referees: Andrew Lees, James Leckie
TMO: Ian Smith