NSW Waratahs coach Rob Penney admits it’s mission critical for his winless side this week, but believes there’s hope and some reasonably quick fixes to their problems.
Penney made several changes to his starting side for Friday’s match away to Melbourne Rebels, who have also lost their first two games.
Cam Clark also gets his initial 2020 Super start on the other wing, with Alex Newsome switched to outside centre and Mark Nawaqanitawase and Lalakai Foketi dropping to the bench, along with flanker Lachlan Swinton, who has been replaced by Jed Holloway.
Friday’s match is the Waratahs’ first Australian conference game of the season and with a bye looming next week, they can ill afford another loss.
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“The boys are desperate to win,” Penney said.
“Mission critical? I guess it is when you think about it deep and meaningfully.”
New Zealander Penney emphasised the vibe within the group remained positive.
“I think the coaching staff and the players are all aligned which is a critical thing,” Penney said.
“You walk into the environment, you wouldn’t think we’re 0-2 and points for and against so badly against us
“There’s still a lot of hope given what we’re creating and it’s just certain elements that aren’t functioning well for us at the moment.
“We think they are reasonably quick fixes, I hope they are and with that in mind the boys are hurting, but in a positive way.”
Penney said this week’s changes were due to some of the issues the Tahs had been facing and trying to find the right combination.
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He rated Bell, the son of Waratahs scrum coach and former Wallabies hooker Mark Bell, as an outstanding prospect and gem of a player.
“He’s unusually athletic for a front-rower, he’s very strong, technically very able,” Penney said.
“The biggest one is his mental application. He’s very determined, he’s got a deeply ingrained winning attitude and he’s got resilience.”
Penney said Nawaqanitawase, who scored three tries in the first two rounds, is being managed and hadn’t been injured until he fell on his face last weekend and had to come off.
Waratahs: Kurtley Beale, Cameron Clark, Alex Newsome, Karmichael Hunt, Jack Maddocks, Will Harrison, Jake Gordon, Jack Dempsey, Michael Hooper, Jed Holloway, Rob Simmons (c), Tom Staniforth, Harry Johnson-Holmes, Robbie Abel, Angus Bell. Reserves: Damien Fitzpatrick, Tom Robertson, Tetera Faulkner, Ryan McCauley, Lachlan Swinton, Mitch Short, Lalakai Foketi, Mark Nawaqanitawase.
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