Waratahs ready for battle of the pack - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Waratahs ready for battle of the pack

By Adrian Warren 06/04/2010 11:28:56 AM Comments (0)

NSW Waratahs are preparing themselves for a tremendous scrummaging battle ahead of Saturday's Super 14 rugby clash with the Crusaders in Christchurch.

The ladder-leading Waratahs head across the Tasman on the back of a five-match winning streak, but will face a third-placed Crusaders outfit who are also unbeaten in their last five outings following their round two loss to Queensland Reds.

The third-placed Crusaders, who are three points behind NSW with a game in hand, boast a powerful front-row including All Blacks props Wyatt Crockett and Owen Franks.

Pitted against them will be the much-lauded Waratahs' all-Wallabies combination of Benn Robinson, Al Baxter and hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau.

"They are a strong scrummaging side, they had a pretty good game last week, so it will be a big test for us," Robinson said before Waratahs training on Monday.

Waratahs coach Chris Hickey is also under no illusions about what his side can expect, describing the Crusaders' scrum as one of the better ones in the tournament.

"It will be a real test for our players, it's an area that we've worked really hard on and taken a lot of pride in" Hickey said.

"If you can get some dominance up front, it gives you a good platform to work from."

The Waratahs have won only one out of nine games against the Crusaders in Christchurch, but Hickey dismissed that damning statistic.

"I think it's pretty irrelevant, the history of things," Hickey said.

"This is 2010, a different team, a different competition, so we don't look at those sort of things at all."

The Waratahs' only victory in Super rugby in Christchurch came in the opening round of the 2004 tournament.

Their pack is expected to be bolstered by the return of captain and openside flanker Phil Waugh and No.8 Wycliff Palu, both of whom missed last Saturday's win over the Cheetahs through injury.

"As of today, we are pretty optimistic Cliffy and Phil will be right for this game," Hickey said.

"When you go into these sort of games you like to think you have the best players available on the park.

"Obviously Cliffy has got some really strong aspects to his game, his ball carrying, his physical presence.

"Having Phil's leadership there is probably an important element in this sort of game."

Robinson also welcomed the anticipated return of the two veteran back-rowers.

"I think Dean (Mumm, the Waratahs' captain against the Cheetahs), did so well on the weekend, but Phil provides so much leadership-wise," Robinson said.

"Look at Cliffy, his form this year, just the ability to get over the gain line.

"I think to play a team like the Crusaders and to get on the front foot, Cliffy is definitely key."

Hickey said he wasn't happy with some areas of the Waratahs defence against the Cheetahs, especially towards the end of the game.

Robinson and Hickey confirmed Baxter was still getting plenty of ribbing from his team mates after finally notching his first Waratahs' try, in his 100th Super appearance against the Cheetahs.

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