Baxter to notch up 100th Waratahs cap - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Baxter to notch up 100th Waratahs cap

By Adrian Warren 18/03/2009 10:08:30 PM Comments (0)

Emerging from the "dark days", Waratahs and Wallabies prop Al Baxter is determined to enjoy the good times with both teams as he prepares to set two major statical rugby milestones this weekend.

Already Australia's most capped prop, Baxter will set two more career landmarks when he takes the field against the Crusaders at ANZ Stadium in Saturday's Super fixture.

Tighthead Baxter, 32, will become the first NSW front rower to tally 100 caps and will surpass contemporary Matt Dunning's state record of 99 appearances by a prop.

Canberra-born Baxter played a couple of games for the Brumby Runners before pledging his allegiance to NSW and making his debut for the Waratahs in 2000.

One of the code's great survivors, Baxter rebounded after being physically and critically mauled following the disastrous performance of the Australian scrum on the 2005 Wallabies Spring Tour.

His subsequent plea to hire a specialist set piece coach was heeded by the Australian Rugby Union, who appointed 1999 World Cup winning hooker Michael Foley to that position.

Under Foley, both the Wallabies and now the Waratahs scrum has gone from a liability to an asset, with Baxter featuring in both.

"It's a lot of fun being part of the Wallabies and the Waratahs at the moment, because both sides are doing well and there's a lot of good players and good people in the organisations," Baxter said.

"It's obviously disappointing when you get bad publicity, but I've always enjoyed playing rugby and that's why I've stuck at it.

"Even if I wasn't getting paid to play rugby, I would still be playing rugby."

Off contract at the end of this year, Baxter can't help but cast covetous glances towards Europe, where props are more highly regarded and better paid than their Australian counterparts.

Baxter suggested he wanted to stick to the Waratahs and go on to the 2011 World Cup but said it was now up to the Australian Rugby Union, with whom he was currently negotiating.

He thought second placed NSW, who have been criticised for their style of rugby, could learn from the Crusaders who have mastered the art of winning early in the season, but not peaking until later in the tournament.

"I guess the problem with NSW teams in the past is we've been playing our very best games in round one and round two, so that by the time you get to mid-season, you actually start going downhill because you peaked," Baxter said.

"I think that the Crusaders have really made an art form of not being too fussed about the early games, although winning them."

"We feel that we haven't played our best rugby yet so hopefully we can eliminate a few errors out of the game that we have let creep into our game," Baxter said.

Baxter, who is yet to score a point for the Waratahs, missed last week's loss to the Brumbies with a calf injury, but has been named in the side to face the Crusaders.

He replaces Dan Palmer who drops to the bench, as does Wallabies centre Timana Tahu, who loses his staring spot to Tom Carter.

NSW Waratahs: Sam Norton-Knight, Lachie Turner, Rob Horne, Tom Carter, Lote Tuqiri, Kurtley Beale, Luke Burgess, Wycliff Palu, Phil Waugh (capt), Dean Mumm, Will Caldwell, Chris Thomson, Al Baxter, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Benn Robinson. Reserves: Damien Fitzpatrick, Dan Palmer, Luke Doherty, Ben Mowen, Brett Sheehan, Daniel Halangahu, Timana Tahu.

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