NSW Waratahs coach Rob Penney has questioned his winless team’s defensive work and made a couple of changes for Friday’s Super Rugby clash with the Lions in Sydney.

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Young winger Mark Nawaqanitawase returns in place of Cam Clark and Lachlan Swinton regains the blindside flanker spot from Jed Holloway, who is on the bench alongside uncapped back James Ramm.

Penney plans to persevere with Nawaqanitawase and five-eighth Will Harrison, but admitted more setbacks for the 0-3 Tahs might force him to choose more experienced players.

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“I’ve got a side of me that is nurturing, that has a degree of empathy for the young blokes and the position that they are in, but that’s not bottomless.

“There will be a point if things don’t improve that changes will need to be made,” said Penney, aware his side have already conceded 14 tries and 99 points.

While poor ball retention and decision making has hurt NSW, Penney said there were moments in games where he questioned his team’s work ethic and their commitment to each other.

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“There are times when the talentless tasks of working hard and committing yourself totally to whatever you’re involved in at the time isn’t happening,” Penny said.

“That’s reflected in being opened up a few times in defence, and that’s caused a large degree of frustration on both sides, players and management

“You can make a whole lot of excuses for those things but if you don’t work really hard and put your body in a position to be able to make a defensive effort, or carry the ball hard and look after the pill, then there’s a whole lot of guys out in clubland that could do that effectively and with passion,” Penney warned.

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“They are the sort of tasks that we’re really disappointed that we’re not able to achieve more consistently. There’s some pretty basic stuff around our defence that we’ve just got to get right.”

NSW Waratahs: Kurtley Beale, Mark Nawaqanitawase, Alex Newsome, Karmichael Hunt, Jack Maddocks, Will Harrison, Jake Gordon, Jack Dempsey, Michael Hooper, Lachlan Swinton, Rob Simmons (capt), Tom Staniforth, Harry Johnson-Holmes, Robbie Abel, Angus Bell. Res: Damien Fitzpatrick, Tom Robertson, Tetera Faulkner, Jed Holloway, Ryan McCauley, Mitch Short, Lalakai Foketi, James Ramm.

Waratahs head coach Rob Penney ahead of clash against the Lions:

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