Waratahs Name Squad For Opening Trial Match
by Brendan Bradford –
Eastern Suburbs halfback Brendan McKibbin will captain the Waratahs this weekend in the side’s opening trial match against the Melbourne Rebels in Hobart. McKibbin – aided by two vice-captains, Jeremy Tilse and Bernard Foley – will retain the captaincy for the second trial against the Auckland Blues the following week.
The 28-man squad traveling to Hobart on Friday includes new recruits Israel Folau, Ollie Atkins, Cam Crawford, Luke Holmes, Matt Lucas and Ben Volavola as well as 10 non-contracted players who have been invited by coach, Michael Cheika. Those 10 players – identified by the Tahs as up-and-coming Shute Shield and schoolboy talents – have been training with the rest of the squad since the end of 2012.
Cheika’s recognition and development of these talented club players illustrates his willingness to utilise the Shute Shield as a legitimate breeding ground for the future of the Waratahs and Australian rugby more generally.
Early indications are that Cheika will give every player a run on Saturday, although he hasn’t revealed where high-profile new recruit Israel Folau will play.
None of the Wallabies who saw game-time in last year’s Spring Tour were included in the squad. These players will be rested until the third and final trial match against the Crusaders at Allianz Stadium on February 14th.
Twenty-seven year old McKibbin has played 26 games for the Waratahs since joining the franchise from the Reds in 2009. Last season, he earned the starting number 9 jersey and assumed the kicking duties with a 17-point haul in a Man-of-the-Match performance in his run-on debut against the Sharks at Allianz Stadium. McKibbin’s 2012 Super Rugby form earned him a late call up to the Wallabies’ end of year tour squad where he sat on the bench in the last match against Wales.
Waratahs Squad to play the Rebels at North Hobart Football Club (Saturday February, 2)
Michael Aalaalatoa* (Southern Districts), Richard Aho* (Randwick), Kotoni Ale* (Manly), Ollie Atkins, Peter Betham, Wayne Borzak* (Warringah), Tom Carter, Cam Crawford, Israel Folau, Bernard Foley, Grayson Hart, Michael Hodge, Luke Holmes, Rob Horne, AJ Gilbert* (Northern Suburbs), Tom Kingston, Matt Lucas, Brendan McKibbin (C), Tolu Latu* (Sydney University), Dane Maraki* (Manly), Elijah Niko* (Eastern Suburbs), Greg Peterson, Jeremy Tilse, Lopeti Timani, Peter Samu* (Randwick), Will Skelton* (Sydney University), John Ulugia, Ben Volavola.
* Invited Players.