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Wallaby Lalakai Foketi to complete incredible return to Waratahs’ First XV

By Finn Morton
Lalakai Foketi of the Waratahs warms up during the round six Super Rugby Pacific match between NSW Waratahs and Melbourne Rebels at Allianz Stadium, on March 29, 2024, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

After suffering a devastating neck injury at training during pre-season which saw the Wallaby rushed to hospital, Lalakai Foketi is set to complete an incredible return to the Waratahs’ starting side.

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Foketi, 29, returned to Super Rugby Pacific off the pine for the Waratahs last during the team’s agonising defeat to Australian rivals the Melbourne Rebels at Sydney’s Allianz Stadium in round six.

But looking ahead to the Waratahs’ next clash with the ACT Brumbies in Canberra, coach Darren Coleman has handed Foketi a start at inside centre.

With Joey Walton shifting to outside centre, and Wallaby Izaia Perese moving to the bench, Foketi will run out onto the field at GIO Stadium with the No. 12 jersey on his back.

“Lalakai brings a great power game for us,” assistant coach Pauli Taumoepeau said in a statement. “He links up well with Tane, and he gets the ball to width deceptively well which helps us get out back three more involved.”

Wallaby Angus Bell, and the return of Fergus Lee-Warner and Charlie Gamble to the starting side headlines a formidable Waratahs pack who’ll be hungry to get the job done on the road.

With the New South Welshman somewhat desperate for a win, coach Darren Coleman has named a strong side with Bell set to pack down alongside Julain Heaven and Harry Johnson-Holmes.

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Jed Holloway joins Lee-Warner in the second row, while the Tahs have gone with a formidable loose forwards trio of Lachlan Swinton, Charlie Gamble and Hugh Sinclair.

Captain Jake Gordon will link up with fly-half Tane Edmed in the halves again this week, while the outside back trio of Dylan Pietsch, Mark Nawaqanitawase and Max Jorgensen can be lethal from anywhere on the rugby field.

Head-to-Head

Last 5 Meetings

Wins
5
Draws
0
Wins
0
Average Points scored
33
24
First try wins
80%
Home team wins
60%

“Swinno has always been that spiritual leader for us. He doesn’t say much but when he does say something everyone listens. He does most of his talking on the field through his carries and through his defence,” Taumoepeau added ahead of Lachlan Swinton’s 50th Super Rugby match.

“Against the Brumbies, we’ll need all hands on deck and if Swinno is leading the charge he’ll be pretty easy to follow.

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“They’re a class side. They’ve been the best maulers in the competition for a very long time. We’ve got to be really disciplined and play them at the right ends of the field.

“I think the battle will be won and lost up front. We’re looking forward to this challenge.”

On the bench, the likes of Miles Amatosero, Teddy Wilson and Will Harrison are among the players to watch as the Tahs chase what would be just their second win of the season.

This clash at Canberra’s GIO Stadium is scheduled to get underway at 7:35 pm AEST on Saturday evening.

Waratahs team to take on ACT Brumbies

  1. Angus Bell
  2. Julian Heaven
  3. Harry Johnson-Holmes
  4. Jed Holloway
  5. Fergus Lee-Warner
  6. Lachlan Swinton
  7. Charlie Gamble
  8. Hugh Sinclair
  9. Jake Gordon (c)
  10. Tane Edmed
  11. Dylan Pietsch
  12. Lalakai Foketi
  13. Joey Walton
  14. Mark Nawaqanitawase
  15. Max Jorgensen

Replacements:

  1. Theo Fourie
  2. Hayden Thompson-Stringer
  3. Tom Ross
  4. Miles Amatosero
  5. Sioen Misiloi
  6. Teddy Wilson
  7. Will Harrison
  8. Izaia Perese

Players unavailable: David Porecki, Thomas Lambert, Archer Holz, Mesu Kunavula, Ned Slack-Smith, Daniel Botha, Mahe Vailanu, Langi Gleeson, Jack Grant, Ned Hanigan

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J
Jon 17 minutes ago
Why Scott Robertson may need to ease big names aside for All Blacks' flexibility

> it was apparent Robertson was worried about his lack of experience at half-back, hence the decision to start veteran TJ Perenara and put Finlay Christie, the next most experienced number nine, on the bench. I don’t think it was this at all. It was a general scope he was putting over all the playerbase, he went with this cohesion factor in every position. > If the main priority is to build different tactical elements to the gameplan, then Ratima is the man in whom Robertson needs to trust and promote. This also I think is antagonist towards the reference game plans. The other plans do not need the speed of which Perenara (atleast) can’t provide, and I think personal is going to be the main point of difference between these games/opponents. That is the aspect of which I think most people will struggle to grasp, a horses for course selection policy over the typical ‘Top All Black 15’. That best 15 group of players is going to have to get broken down into categories. So it test one we saw Christie control the game to nullify the English threats out of existence and grind to a win. In test two we saw Ratima need to come on which dictated that this time they would run them off their feet with speed and the space did open up and the victory did come. Horses for courses. The same concepts are going to exist for every group, front row, lock and loose forward balance, midfield, and outside backs all can have positional changes that the players may be asked to accentualize on and develop. There might be some that _it_ will not ever click for, but they’ll hopefully still be getting to enjoy unbelievable comeback victories and late game shutouts to close it down. Knowing does not mean not enjoying.

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W
Wonton 7 hours ago
Why Scott Robertson may need to ease big names aside for All Blacks' flexibility

One game against Fiji is not enough to show that a player is ready to play the likes of South Africa. Spreading the ball wide too much increases the risk of turnovers and we turned the ball over 20 times against Fiji which is a lot more than what we did in the two England tests. We actually turned the ball over the same amount of times (20) against England in the 2019 semi final which we lost. Fiji didn’t make us pay for those turnovers but other teams will. In the 2nd test against England this year we had 100% success rate on attacking rucks. That’s the first time the AB’s have achieved this since the 2019 opening game of the RWC against South Africa. South Africa won last years RWC and Jesse Kriel did not pass once. The days of the Conrad Smith type centre might be over. Also Conrad Smith debuted in 2004 but he did not become an incumbent until Nonu did also in 2008. As for Rieko Ioane he and Jordie Barrett put in some very strong midfield hits in the 2nd test forcing turnovers several times. Rieko Ioane hasn’t played wing in years. If Proctor is moved to 13 then the best I think Ioane can hope for is an impact player off the bench. He does not have the aerial game of Caleb Clarke or the workrate of Tele’a for 11 and going to be selected over Jordan at 14. However its much too early to replace Rieko with Proctor. Rieko was excellent in the knock out rounds of the RWC. All Proctor has to show on his test CV is a good game against Fiji.

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