NSW Waratahs coach Rob Penney has kept faith in his players, retaining the same starting line-up for Friday’s Super Rugby AU clash with Melbourne at the SCG.

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The Waratahs were edged by a point by the Brumbies last round after holding a big first-half lead.

But Penney believes they can get the job done against the Rebels, who are coming off the bye in search of their first win.

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Veteran halfback Jake Gordon is in line for his first appearance in the competition after recovering from a hamstring injury to be named on the bench.

Rookie hooker Joe Cotton, Chris Talakai and Jed Holloway are also new faces amongst the reserves.

The Waratahs are on guard for another masterclass from Melbourne’s Matt To’omua on Friday night.

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Toomua called the shots when the Rebels triumphed early in the regular Super competition, with his kicking game helping steer his team to a 24-10 victory over the Waratahs.

Waratahs coach Rob Penney said the Rebels, who are likely to be away from home for the entire season, didn’t need any extra motivation to get up for a NSW game.

“All the teams that play the Waratahs have a reason to dislike the Waratahs and the Rebels are no different,” Penney said.

“They will have all sorts of conversations around hardships they’re having to go through being away from home.

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“They will be tough … they put us to the sword last time we played them in Melbourne and hopefully we can perform well.”

Penney said he’d put plenty of time into their defensive strategy to counter the likes of Wallabies To;omua, Dane Haylett-Petty and Marika Koroibete.

“Last time we played them Matt To’omua gave a masterclass of kicking strategy,” he said.

“We know we’re going to confront that again … we’ve had to think more broadly around our defensive strategy.

“We think we’ve done the work and players just have to deliver on Friday night.”

Waratahs: Jack Maddocks, James Ramm, Joey Walton, Karmichael Hunt, Alex Newsome, Will Harrison, Mitch Short, Jack Dempsey, Michael Hooper, Lachlan Swinton, Rob Simmons (c), Ned Hanigan, Harry Johnson-Holmes, Tom Horton, Tom Robertson. Reserves: Joe Cotton, Tetera Faulkner, Chris Talakai, Tom Staniforth, Jed Holloway, Jake Gordon, Mark Nawaqanitawase, Ben Donaldson.

– Melissa Woods

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