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'The gap's definitely closing': Waratahs flanker hungry for more wins over Kiwis

By AAP
Charlie Gamble celebrates Hugh Sinclair's try for the Waratahs. Photo by Asanka Ratnayake/Getty Images

The stinging NSW Waratahs are pledging to fight fire with fire in a Super Rugby Pacific litmus test against a potent Blues forward pack.

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And for dynamic flanker Charlie Gamble, it gets personal at Allianz Stadium on Saturday night.

The New Zealand-born pilferer will go head to head with childhood rival Dalton Papali’i, as well as having to contend with Anton Segner and Akira Ioane in a near-Test-strength Blues back row.

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After falling 23-21 to the Highlanders, the Waratahs know they can ill afford to drop another game and Gamble reckons the onus is on the NSW pack to stand up.

“They’ve got an unreal back row, an All Black-quality back row” Gamble said on Tuesday.

“We’ve just got to fight fire with fire. We feel like we’ve got a quality back row ourselves.

“The only thing with the Blues being a big pack is you’ve just got to take it to them.”

Gamble has been taking it to the Kiwis all his life and relishes challenges like this week’s.

“I’m quite lucky,” he said.

“I’ve played these guys all through age group and I know a few of them so been able to play them week in week out.

“Dalton (and I) have come across each other a few times over the years, so it’s pretty good, pretty exciting to go up against him.

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“He’s playing quality footy at the moment so it’s a big test for myself.

The rivalry runs deep.

“I guess, like me growing up as a Cantabrian and he’s from Auckland, that rivalry growing up through the age grades has always been quite big,” Gamble said.

“We’ve just got to let the footy do the talking on the field and see how we go.”

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Despite the Tahs succumbing to the Highlanders, Gamble is adamant Australia’s five Super Rugby sides are finally catching up to their Kiwi counterparts after a decade of playing second fiddle to the New Zealanders.

“For Australian rugby, it’s always been there. I think they’ve just lacked a bit of confidence,” Gamble said.

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“So us getting up against the Crusaders (two weeks ago), the Reds, obviously a couple of weeks ago just lost the Hurricanes and then they beat the Chiefs.

“So the gap’s definitely closing. It’s just about being consistent.”

The hero against the Crusaders, Waratahs flyhalf Tane Edmed had an after-the-siren penalty-goal shot that would have sunk the Highlanders.

“It was a tough loss to take last week given the fact that there were multiple times that we could have run away with a win there,” Gamble said.

“It was obviously unfortunate how we lost at the end, but we were in the fight the whole 80 minutes so there’s lots of positives we can take out of it.”

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