Coach Daryl Gibson hopes Wallabies captain Michael Hooper returns for the NSW Waratahs’ crucial conference derby against Melbourne raring to go after resting the workaholic flanker for Saturday’s Super Rugby clash with the Blues.

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Hooper’s spell allows exciting young flanker Will Miller to make his first start of the season as the Waratahs attempt to bounce back from last week’s shock loss to the Sunwolves.

While the skipper didn’t take the news well that he wouldn’t run out at Eden Park, Gibson said it was important to manage his load, especially in a World Cup year.

“We saw that as an opportunity heading into our bye that he gets two weeks off,” Gibson said.

“He’s played just about every minute of our last six games, so it’s a good opportunity for him and he’s going to be really firing going into the Rebels game coming off the bye.”

Star centre Kurtley Beale has been relegated to the bench but Gibson insisted the demotion had nothing to do with the Wallaby’s form.

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The coach merely preferred to stiffen up his midfield defence, opting to partner Adam Ashley-Cooper and Karmichael Hunt there.

“He hasn’t been dropped,” Gibson said.

“I’ve looked at Auckland and I look at it where they’re strong. They’ve got some big boppers coming down that channel.

“I’ve selected a combination in the middle which I believe can combat that and add some.

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“And that’s where Karmichael and Adam really excel in the defensive area and there’s a role for Kurtley coming off the bench in providing that spark in attack.”

WARATAHS: Israel Folau, Cam Clark, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Karmichael Hunt, Alex Newsome, Bernard Foley (capt), Nick Phipps, Michael Wells, Will Miller, Jack Dempsey, Rob Simmons, Ned Hanigan, Sekope Kepu, Damien Fitzpatrick, Harry Johnson-Holmes, Reserves: Andrew Tuala, Rory O’Connor, Chris Talakai, Tom Staniforth, Lachlan Swinton, Jake Gordon, Kurtley Beale, Lalakai Foketi.

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-RugbyPass/AAP

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