Elvis Taione joins Waratahs finals squad - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Elvis Taione joins Waratahs finals squad

Adrian Warren 20/06/2011 07:46:47 PM Comments (0)

Unheralded hooker Elvis Taione is poised to take a giant step up from club reserve grade to the injury-plagued NSW Waratahs bench for Friday's Super Rugby finals series qualifier against the Blues in Auckland.

First choice hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau (knee), prop Al Baxter (head knock) and five-eighth Daniel Halangahu (hamstring) were all ruled out of the Eden Park encounter.

With Halangahu and Berrick Barnes unavailable, Kurtley Beale is set to switch from fullback to five-eighth.

NSW coach Chris Hickey says Polota-Nau appeared to have suffered meniscus damage early in last Saturday's win over the Brumbies and will undergo arthroscopic surgery on Tuesday.

With backup hooker Damien Fitzpatrick also on the injury list, John Ulugia will start against the Blues, with uncapped Taione expected to be named on the bench.

Taione, who was on standby at the Waratahs' warmup last Saturday, has played reserve grade for his club side Manly for at least the past two weeks.

With Baxter and in-form Sekope Kepu among the many injured players, Hickey will look at Jeremy Tilse and Paddy Ryan to fill the vacant prop spot against the Blues.

"Every time we've been faced with challenges like this, the players we've selected have stepped up and done the job, and the proof of that is we've qualified for the finals series," Hickey told reporters on Monday.

With Halangahu's grade two hamstring tear likely to sideline him for the remainder of the finals, Hickey had little choice and no reservations about moving Beale to five-eighth.

"Kurtley has probably played more football at 10 than he has at 15. He's played finals football at 10 in 2008," Hickey said.

"Kurtley's form has been outstanding and often at 15 he ends up at first receiver anyhow, so there's not a great difference to being at 10 or 15 for Kurtley."

Hickey says Lachie Turner, Atieli Pakalani and Sosene Anesi are all contenders to play at fullback this week.

NSW have won just once in 80 years at Eden Park and have lost all four of their overseas fixtures this year.

"We have struggled a little bit away from home, but I think it's a different arena once you get into finals football. There's a lot of pressure on both sides," NSW captain and openside flanker Phil Waugh said.

"We're feeling pretty good with the momentum we're taking into the game on the back of our last two performances, so it's about carrying that through."

Despite criticism of their style in some quarters, NSW finished the regular season as the competition's leading tryscorers.

"We've always had belief in the way we've been playing and our ability to score points despite other people's disbelief," Waugh said.

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