Waratahs bolster pack to take on mighty Lions scrum

Hard to stop: Will Skelton in training on Thursday. Photo: Tamara Dean
Hard to stop: Will Skelton in training on Thursday. Photo: Tamara Dean

Waratahs coach Michael Cheika has bolstered the strength of his set-piece forward pack. The 135-kilogram second-rower Will Skelton has been included in the starting side over Jacques Potgieter for Sunday's game against the Lions.

And new Fijian recruit and winger, 120kg Taqele Naiyaravoro, has been picked for the bench after his first game back in rugby for Parramatta against Eastwood last Saturday.

While Potgieter's selection for the game at Allianz Stadium in Moore Park was affected by his leg injury sustained in the Waratahs' last game against the Hurricanes two rounds ago, Cheika made it clear that size and strength were needed for the scrum.

The Waratahs realise the enormity of the challenge against the Lions scrum – the most successful in the competition; their own scrum ranks 14th of 15 teams.

"They have pretty much dominated every opposition they have come up against," Cheika said after training on Thursday. "It's going to be a really big battle for our forwards.

"They have a front row that ... they were probably unknown at the start of season but they have made names for themselves.

"I'm glad we are playing them this far in because we have had an opportunity to have a look at them on video.

"They have good technique. They angle in sometimes, but they are very crafty.

"We have to make sure we are solid and that our weight is countering any of the angles that they bring to try and disrupt our ball. We have brought Willy back in ... we need a little more weight in the scrum.

"Will has certainly got good power on the right hand side of the scrum. We look to share that load in a slightly different way this week."

Cheika was speaking publicly for the first time outside of his mandatory SANZAR requirements since being fined and handed a suspended ban for an incident involving him and a television cameraman during the Waratahs trip to South Africa in March.

"I'm fine," Cheika said when asked about his break of silence in recent weeks. "I have been less involved with the press. That's just because I can't always say what I want to say because it's too dangerous.

"So I just stay quiet on the outside but with my team nothing has changed. I think I've said enough about it now."

Apart from the inclusion of Skelton into the starting side for the sixth time this season, there were no changes to the run-on team that beat the Hurricanes.

In the other change to the bench, Eastwood's Hugh Roach has been picked for his Super Rugby debut as the back-up hooker for Tolu Latu (foot injury).

Cheika attended the Eastwood-Paramatta game at T.G Millner Field, but said while Roach's selection would have happened anyway as he was the Waratahs' No.3 hooker, it was an opportune time to watch Naiyaravoro play rugby for the first time in four years.

He said the selection of the former NRL Wests Tigers player was "a good chance to get Taqele involved in a home game".

"He has grown up playing the game. It was a far stretch to return back into the game [from NRL]. He has good parts of his game that come from league with his ball carrying and stuff.

"But it's still going to be a measured entree into Super Rugby for him ... if he gets any time at all. It's probably just about getting in there and getting the atmosphere from pitch side in seeing how fast the game is going."

This story Waratahs bolster pack to take on mighty Lions scrum first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.