Injuries threaten Waratahs' finals hopes - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Injuries threaten Waratahs' finals hopes

By Adrian Warren 11/04/2010 04:35:37 PM Comments (0)

Coach Chris Hickey is anxiously awaiting scans on key players as injuries threaten to derail the NSW Waratahs' promising Super 14 rugby finals charge.

Hickey's team suffered their most significant casualty toll of the season in the bruising 20-13 loss to the Crusaders in Christchurch on Saturday.

Three Wallabies forwards, No.8 Wycliff Palu (knee), hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau (shoulder) and prop Benn Robinson (forearm) are the major worries for Hickey, while five-eighth Daniel Halangahu suffered medial ligament knee damage.

Palu, who had re-signed the day before the game, will miss the rest of the tournament and most of Australia's 2010 Test campaign if scans confirm the initial diagnosis of a cruciate ligament injury.

The Waratahs' attack could also be seriously compromised by the injury to Polota-Nau, their other major ball runner in the forwards.

The loss to the Crusaders dropped them to third and they could fall as far as sixth if the Stormers, Reds and Brumbies all win next week.

NSW probably need to win at least three of their last four games to make the semi-finals.

Following the crucial April 24 SFS showdown with the Brumbies in their first game after the bye, NSW play the Highlanders and Chiefs away and finish at home to the Hurricanes.

NSW and the Highlanders are the last teams in the tournament to have a bye and Hickey felt it was timely for the bashed-up Tahs given their growing injury toll.

"We've been playing for nine weeks now so it's time we had a bit of a break," said Hickey, whose players won't resume training till Thursday.

Hickey wanted to see his players continue to back themselves and felt passages of play like the incredible 29-phase stanza that culminated in centre Rob Horne's try against the Crusaders demonstrated they had good attacking ability.

"Our confidence and our belief in our ability to play when we've got the ball, that's one of the things we just need to develop," Hickey said.

"If we can do that, then with the players we've got and the way we're playing, then we can finish the last four rounds off in strong fashion."

Like all onlookers, Hickey was amazed by the stirring performance of veteran NSW skipper and openside flanker Phil Waugh, who was under an injury cloud throughout the week.

He boosted his Wallabies hopes with an all-action display highlighted by a wonderful ball steal off old rival Richie McCaw, after the All Blacks skipper got over the Waratahs line.

"To put a performance like he did on the park and his leadership of the team just speaks volumes for him," Hickey said.

The Waratahs were outplayed in the scrums and at the breakdown by the Crusaders and they will be two areas Hickey will study intently during their bye week.

I think we were penalised four to one in the scrum. It's hard to tell while the game is going on what's happening there, we'll do some video analysis on that one.

"At the breakdown it's a bit of an issue when teams are leaving their feet and sealing the ball off and you can't get decent possession."

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