Waugh challenges Waratahs to step up - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Waugh challenges Waratahs to step up

By Darren Walton 30/07/2009 06:23:03 PM Comments (0)

Skipper Phil Waugh has challenged his NSW teammates to step up and finally land an elusive Super 14 rugby title next season following the Waratahs' prize signing of Wallabies midfield general Berrick Barnes.

Waugh commended the Waratahs' recruitment team - headed by high performance manager and former NSW and Australian five-eighth Scott Bowen - for working overtime in order to land Barnes as a dream replacement for backline utility Timana Tahu.

Almost as soon as news filtered through to the Waratahs last week that Tahu wanted out of the remaining two years of his NSW and Australian Rugby Union contracts so he could return to the NRL, Bowen was on a plane to Brisbane trying to nab Barnes from under the noses of the Queensland Reds.

And that's exactly what he did.

Barnes spoke to both Queensland officials and Bowen over the weekend, with the Reds convinced they had done enough to retain their star playmaker.

Alas for the Reds, Barnes stunned teammates and announced on Wednesday he was leaving the battling franchise after four years to join Queensland's arch rivals on a one-season deal with another one-year option.

"It's very exciting. Not just as a rugby player but as a person he'll be great to have in our squad next season," Waugh said on Thursday.

"The people at NSW have done a lot of hard work in luring him across. It was great work by NSW - Scott Bowen and the people around him - and now it's our responsibility to deliver the good performance on the field."

Waugh said regardless of whether Barnes played inside centre or five-eighth for NSW, he predicted the 23-year-old playmaker would make a big impact at the Waratahs.

"Berrick's a very complete player," he said.

"The impact he'll have as a player and also the influence he'll have around a lot of other young guys in that backline will give a lot of other guys confidence .

"So hopefully he'll direct the team around very well on the field but also influence the guys positively off the field as well."

Waugh hailed the 17-Test midfielder as an ideal replacement for sacked winger Lote Tuqiri on the Waratahs' leadership group.

"Lote's been a huge part of that, so he'll slot nicely into that leadership capacity at NSW and it's certainly reassuring for the younger guys around here," he said.

"After losing (Tuqiri and Tahu), it leaves a pretty a big hole and certainly the younger guys in the squad were a bit disheartened in losing those two experienced guys.

"I guess it just gives everyone that little bit of reassurance and confidence when you get someone like Berrick on the books.

"There's certainly a nice vibe around NSW at the moment."

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