League convert on 'Tahs bench
TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: Former NRL forward Tepai Moeroa is poised to make his Super Rugby debut off the bench for the Waratahs in Saturday’s home game against the Blues in Newcastle.
Moeroa, who played over 100 first-grade games in six NRL seasons with Parramatta, can fill either of the centre positions, though 12 is the most likely.
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“It’s early days for him but he’s a big strong man, he’s got a good skill set and his game understanding is what has really grown over the last month,” coach Rob Penney said.
“We think the time is right now to see if it’s grown to a good enough level to contribute positively.
“We think he will. If we’re right, then we’ve got another great bit of talent and depth in that midfield position, that is going to be very strong for us.”
Wallabies backrower Jack Dempsey has been promoted to the starting team at No.8, with Jed Holloway dropping to the bench.
Prop Harry Johnson-Holmes is back after sickness forced him out of last week’s team.
Meanwhile, the coach revealed that “Super” Michael Hooper could easily captain the team again.
Having relinquished the Waratahs captaincy this season, Wallabies skipper Hooper turned in what Penney described as an unbelievable performance in last weekend’s opening round Super Rugby loss to the Crusaders.
“He’s had two months off since the World Cup and had 50 minutes [in a trial] against the Reds, and then to play like that for 80 minutes, incredible,” Penney said.
“As we know he’s a super man in more ways than one.”
While lock Rob Simmons has the captaincy after Hooper opted to stand down, Penney did not rule out the openside flank regaining it in future seasons.
Waratahs: 15 Kurtley Beale, 14 Alex Newsome, 13 Lalakai Foketi, 12 Karmichael Hunt, 11 Mark Nawaqanitawase, 10 Will Harrison, 9 Jake Gordon, 8 Jack Dempsey, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Lachlan Swinton, 5 Rob Simmons (captain), 4 Tom Staniforth, 3 Harry Johnson-Holmes, 2 Robbie Abel, 1 Tom Robertson.
Replacements: 16 Damien Fitzpatrick, 17 Angus Bell, 18 Tetera Faulkner, 19 Ryan McCauley, 20 Jed Holloway, 21 Tepai Moeroa, 22 Mitch Short, 23 Jack Maddocks.
Date: Saturday, February 8
Kick-off: 19.15 (21.15 NZ time; 08.15 GMT)
Venue: McDonald Jones Stadium, Newcastle
Referee: AJ Jacobs (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Damon Murphy (Australia), Nicholas Berry (Australia)
TMO: Ian Smith (Australia)