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Team Preview: The Waratahs

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allblacks.com     15 Feb 2018     Getty Images

Home: Allianz Stadium, Sydney
Last season: 16

Squad:
KURTLEY BEALE, CAMERON CLARK, JACK DEMPSEY, DAMIEN FITZPATRICK, LALAKAI FOKETI, ISRAEL FOLAU, BERNARD FOLEY, JAKE GORDON, NED HANIGAN, BRYCE HEGARTY, JED HOLLOWAY, MICHAEL HOOPER, HARRY JOHNSON-HOLMES, MACLEAN JONES, ANDREW KELLAWAY, SEKOPE KEPU, TOLU LATU, MACK MASON, RYAN McCAULEY, KELLY MEAFUA, WILLIAM MILLER, TAQELE NAIYARAVORO, ALEX NEWSOME, NICK PALMER, NICK PHIPPS, HUGH ROACH, TOM ROBERTSON, CURTIS RONA, PADDY RYAN, MATT SANDELL, JP SAUNI, MITCH SHORT, ROB SIMMONS, IRAE SIMONE, TOM STANIFORTH, LACHLAN SWINTON, SHAMBECKLER VUI, CODY WALKER, MICHAEL WELLS, BRAD WILKIN

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Key signing:
The Waratahs have benefited from the removal of the Western Force from Super Rugby with a number of key signings – but perhaps none more important than flying wing Curtis Rona. The 105kg powerhouse starred for the Force in 2017 after a three-year stint in the NRL. His powerful ball running and thunderous defence was rewarded with selection in the Wallabies in 2017 where he made three Test appearances. Rona will form an imposing combination with Taqele Naiyaravoro on the fringes for the Waratahs. 

Game breaker:
After a season away from Super Rugby, the dynamic Kurtley Beale will return to the club he made his Super Rugby debut for all the way back in 2007. At 29-years-old, Beale still has plenty of rugby left in him and will provide versatility and flair to the Waratahs backline. Able to play anywhere from first five-eighth out, Beale will slot into a backline that features a number of world class game-breakers in Israel Folau, Taqele Naiyaravoro and Curtis Rona. When combined with a classy inside-back pairing of Nick Phipps and Bernard Foley, the Waratahs boast a backline that can do big damage to any side in Super Rugby.

Returning veteran:
A regular feature in the Waratahs for over a decade, world class prop Sekope Kepu will be back once again in 2018 to lead the forward charge. With almost 100 caps for both the Waratahs and Wallabies, Kepu is one of the most experienced and respected front rowers on the world scene. While his set-piece play is seamless, Kepu’s other greatest asset is his powerful defence. Whether stopping opposing forward runners in their tracks or defending the try line voraciously, Kepu is one of the most feared defenders in Super Rugby

The scoop:
On paper, the Waratahs should be one of the top contenders in Super Rugby. But rugby isn’t played out on a note-pad as the Waratahs found out during their dismal 2017 season. If Coach Daryl Gibson can get his rock star team to unite and string together some consistent performances then they could be a force once again. But if all they do is rely on individual brilliance then it simply won’t be enough. The first couple of rounds should give a good gauge on how the Waratahs will fare in 2018.