Rugby: Halaholo ready for Folau challenge

By Campbell Burnes

Willis Halaholo knows he'll need to be on his toes is Israel Folau starts at centre. Photo / Getty
Willis Halaholo knows he'll need to be on his toes is Israel Folau starts at centre. Photo / Getty

Willis Halaholo gets his starting chance in the Hurricanes' midfield for Saturday night and does not need to be reminded that he will have to look after Israel Folau, if the Wallaby plays at centre, on the one-out defence.

"We're looking to shut him down, we've done a lot of reviews on their attacking play. He's a big threat, but I'm pretty confident in myself and the boys that we can get the job done," says the 26-year-old, who celebrated his birthday yesterday.

Halaholo makes just his third start in 10 games for the Hurricanes in 2016, and replaces another transplanted Aucklander in Vince Aso, who has a calf strain. Like Aso, he brings attacking thrust in the No 12 jersey to an already potent Hurricanes back division.

"You try not to think about it too much. To me, (Folau) is just another player, but you have to be on your toes with a guy like that. He's a great player and it's a great time to test yourself against the best," said Halaholo, who lists his most memorable rugby moment as winning the Auckland 1A First competition with MAGS in 2009.

The second five, who played 33 games for the Southland Stags, is signed to Waikato from next month for the Mitre 10 Cup before he follows the route of the likes of Gareth Anscombe, Rey Lee-Lo and Jarrad Hoeata in making the shift north to the Cardiff Blues in Wales.

Halaholo has quipped that he will have his mouthguard in during the game, a subject that seems to have raised its head with several pro players in recent years.

"They've got some big ball runners. I value my teeth, so I will be putting my mouthguard on!"

Hurricanes coach Chris Boyd was happy to promote him ahead of Ngani Laumape:
"Obviously it's a blow for us with Vince Aso being out, but Willis has had some good performances off the bench and the decision there was around whether we'd start Willis or bring back Ngani, but he hasn't had much footy in the last month. We'll start him and see what happens. Willis has great hands and great feet, so he's a good attacking threat, but he's also tight on his defence, so we've had a lot of confidence in the four young guys filling the void."

That defensive line came under heat from the Blues, so the onus will be on Halaholo, in partnership with Matt Proctor, to be vocal with their calling and accurate on their execution.

In the only other change to the starting XV, Chris Eves starts at tighthead prop in place of Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, who broke his arm against the Blues. The under-rated Callum Gibbins comes onto the bench as loose forward cover.
Hurricanes team to play the Waratahs:

James Marshall, Cory Jane, Matt Proctor, Willis Halaholo, Julian Savea, Beauden Barrett, TJ Perenara, Victor Vito, Ardie Savea, Brad Shields, Michael Fatialofa, Vaea Fifita, Chris Eves, Dane Coles (c), Reggie Goodes

Reserves: Ricky Riccitelli, Ben May, Loni Uhila, Mark Abbott, Callum Gibbins, Jamison Gibson-Park, Ngani Laumape, Jason Woodward

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