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Ex-Wallabies duo return from Japan to boost Waratahs' title hopes

By AAP
(Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

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With reinforcements arriving from Japan in the form of seasoned veterans Ned Hanigan and Paddy Ryan, the Waratahs say a home final is “critical” to their Super Rugby Pacific title ambitions.

Wallabies forward Hanigan and NSW centurion prop Ryan have finished their overseas campaigns and returned to add some vital experience to the young Waratahs.

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Spending two seasons in Japan, Hanigan has 21 test caps and can play in the back row or at lock, while Ryan last played for NSW in 2018.

Hosting the Hurricanes at Leichhardt Oval on Saturday night, the Waratahs are chasing a third successive victory.

NSW prop Angus Bell said 27-year-old Hanigan and Ryan, 33, had already made an impact at training.

“It just adds to the standard of training – as soon as they came in they had an immediate impact,” Bell said on Tuesday.

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“You could just feel the competition within the squad and also the intensity just lift again.

“It’s been nothing but positive and plus those two are just top blokes … it’s great to have them both in the squad.”

The Waratahs have matches against the Highlanders in Dunedin and Blues back at Leichhardt to come before the eight-team finals series.

Sitting in fifth on points differential, the test prop said that they desperately wanted a home quarter-final.

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“I think it’s critical to our season,” Bell said.

“We started this year with a mentality of looking down the ladder but now we’re of the mentality that we’re looking up, we want to see how far we can go, how deep we can get in this competition – we want to win it.

“And we think through getting the home final at Leichhardt or somewhere in Sydney would be the best opportunity to do that so we’re really pushing hard for that top four spot.”

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The Hurricanes lost to the Brumbies before thrashing Fijian Drua last round.

Waratahs centre Lalakai Foketi said there were lessons to be learnt from how the Canberra side triumphed.

“We’ve definitely looked at how the Brumbies nullified their opportunities,” he said.

“We know they can score points from all over the field and they’re the lowest kicking team in the competition so we know they’ll run from everywhere so we’ve got to be alert.”

Meanwhile, the Western Force will have to play three matches in seven days with their postponed game against Moana Pasifika rescheduled.

The match was initially due to be played in Super Round last month but was delayed by mounting COVID-19 cases in the Perth team.

The Force will play their round 14 match against the Chiefs in Hamilton on Saturday May 21, Moana Pasifika at Auckland’s Mt Smart Stadium on Tuesday May 24 and then host the Hurricanes in their final round match four days later.

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