Rugby: Hurricanes wary of Waratahs midfield

By Campbell Burnes

Julian Savea of the Hurricanes runs with the ball. Photo / Getty Images
Julian Savea of the Hurricanes runs with the ball. Photo / Getty Images

The Hurricanes hit the cauldron of Allianz Stadium in Sydney tonight knowing their playoffs ticket can be booked with a victory over the fired-up Waratahs.

If defeated, the Hurricanes would need to upset the Crusaders in Christchurch to ensure post-season play. The stats show 20 clashes at 10-10, but the Waratahs have won six of the past eight, something Hurricanes coach Chris Boyd says has little relevance to the 80 minutes ahead.

"They are desperate, we are keen as. We are on their patch and they are a really good side, so it's going to be a big ask," said Boyd. "It's probably the home of rugby in Australia. They have a huge history there and have talked a lot about the blue jersey."

They also have a canny Kiwi coach in Daryl Gibson, who has overseen something of a revival after a difficult start to 2016. He has shown his hand with the inclusion of big ball carriers such as No 8 Wycliff Palu, big lock Will Skelton and combative hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau.

Rob Horne and Israel Folau in midfield are especially dangerous, meaning the new Hurricanes 12-13 combination Willis Halaholo and Matt Proctor will need tight defence.

Boyd has every confidence they will do the job, but where Folau injects himself will be fascinating, be it at set-piece, on the counter, or with a roving commission on phase play.

"That's a world-class midfield, and part of what we do is keeping those guys as quiet as possible. If you look at the way the Waratahs play, and the positions they put Folau and Michael Hooper in, there is no doubt that Folau is more dangerous from broken play," says Boyd.

While he joked that the Hurricanes would not be kicking at all, he conceded they had to be accurate if they pursued that strategy.

The Super Rugby future of Beauden Barrett, and now deputy Otere Black, both apparently courted by the Blues, was a hot topic.

Boyd was "100 per cent" confident Barrett would remain a Hurricane and confirmed Black was signed for 2017.

In the only other change to the Hurricanes starting XV, Chris Eves is in at tighthead prop in place of Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, who broke his arm against the Blues.

The under-rated Callum Gibbins is on the bench as loose forward cover.

- NZ Herald

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