x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

British & Irish Lions: NSW Waratahs get reinforcement from the top

Wallaby backrower David Dennis will lead a New South Wales Waratahs team boasting four international players against the British & Irish Lions.

David Dennis of the Wallabies hopes to make the same punishing runs for the New South Wales Waratahs when the face the British & Irish Lions on Saturday.
David Dennis of the Wallabies hopes to make the same punishing runs for the New South Wales Waratahs when the face the British & Irish Lions on Saturday.

SYDNEY // The Wallaby backrower David Dennis will lead a New South Wales Waratahs team boasting four international players against the British & Irish Lions on Saturday, a week before the first Test.

Dennis and the Test centre Rob Horne were released from the Wallabies' training camp to bolster a Waratahs side missing 11 internationals through Australian commitments and injury.

The Waratahs have also been bolstered by the selection yesterday of openside flanker Pat McCutcheon, who has recovered from a knee injury.

Michael Cheika, the coach, has been able to select the 63-cap Wallabies winger Drew Mitchell at fullback and the prop Paddy Ryan, who made his Test debut on last year's European tour against France, at tight-head.

"This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and we want it to be something worth remembering," said Cheika, who has coached the Irish provincial side Leinster.

"We're going to go for it. We can't be looking for a glorious defeat. As a player, you want to say that you played in an international-level fixture and you made something of it.

"We're playing against a team with a massive artillery. Obviously, I'd like to have all our international players available but fair play to [the Australian Rugby Union] for giving us Dave and Rob back and for releasing Bernard Foley and Matt Lucas from the sevens camp."

Apart from Dennis and Horne, the Waratahs have eight other players in camp with the Wallabies ahead of next week's first Test in Brisbane. Three Waratahs internationals are sidelined through injury.

"The odds are against us, massively, but we'll try and buck them. As long as there's a chance, we'll take it," Cheika said. "Anything in red that moves, we'll have a crack at. We need to play our game and do it as best we can and see what happens."

The rivalry between NSW and Britain dates back 125 years to the teams' first meeting in Sydney on June 2, 1888. NSW are looking to post their first win over the Lions since a 18-14 victory in 1959. The teams have met 20 times with the Waratahs registering four wins and one draw.

In their last encounter, in 2001, NSW lost 41-24 to the tourists in an ugly game remembered for Duncan McRae's flurry of punches which bloodied the Lions fly-half Ronan O'Gara.

Meanwhile, Rob Kearney of the Lions is expected to make his first appearance on tour off the bench and Leigh Halfpenny, who will wear the No 15 today versus the Waratahs, seems primed to man the full-back spot against the Wallabies.

 

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