New NSW Waratahs coach Rob Penney has declared complete confidence in his Super Rugby rookies, after opting to blood debutants Will Harrison and Mark Nawaqanitawase in a tough season opener against three-time defending champions the Crusaders.
Five-eighth Harrison and winger Nawaqanitawase will be part of a Waratahs team striving to end the Crusaders 31-game home winning record on Saturday in Nelson.
“A hundred per cent they are ready to go, we wouldn’t have compromised their development if we didn’t believe they were of stern enough stuff mentally or physically,” Penney said.
There are two more 2019 Junior Wallabies and potential Super debutants on the bench in prop Angus Bell and backrower Carlo Tizzano.
“There’s no doubt those young boys getting a start, and the one’s off the bench, have earnt the right to be in those positions otherwise we wouldn’t be putting them in,” Penney said.
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Penney wasn’t tempted to put experienced utility back Kurtley Beale at five-eighth, naming him at fullback and placing his faith in Harrison to steer the side around.
“We’re not expecting a performance that you would go without error on the weekend because he’s being thrust into a tumultuous sort of position, but we trust that he’ll do a really good job,” Penney said of the playmaker.
“He’s got resilience, physically he’s a robust character.
“He put himself in tough positions, he’ll put his head in dark places. He’s prepared to do that for the team, which is a fantastic attribute for someone defending in the inside channels.”
Penney opted for six forwards on the bench, with recently signed Wallaby Jack Maddocks one of two backline replacements.
Waratahs: Kurtley Beale, Mark Nawaqanitawase, Lalakai Foketi, Karmichael Hunt, Alex Newsome, Will Harrison, Jake Gordon, Jed Holloway, Michael Hooper, Lachlan Swinton, Rob Simmons (capt), Tom Staniforth, Tetera Faulkner, Robbie Abel, Tom Robertson. Reserves: Chris Talakai, Damien Fitzpatrick, Angus Bell, Ryan McCauley, Carlo Tizzano, Jack Dempsey, Mitch Short, Jack Maddocks.
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