Volavola to lead home side in Crusaders clash

Michael Cheika has backed 22-year-old newcomer Ben Volavola to unleash an exciting NSW backline against the star-studded Crusaders.

The uncapped Southern Districts flyhalf will line up against Dan Carter tomorrow night in the HSBC Waratahs’ first home match of the new season and the final trial before the Super Rugby season begins.  The game shaping up to be a brutal trans-Tasman encounter pitting 12 Wallabies against 10 All Blacks but the head coach says he had no doubts about starting the youngster.   
“You don’t get experience if you don’t play,” said Cheika. “I am more than happy with him playing.  It’s very exciting for Ben to go up against Dan Carter. He is a very natural,  instinctive player and although he’s only very young and a few months into the program as a professional player, the way he has responded has been surprisingly good.
“It will be up to the rest of the team to make sure he challenges one of the best players in the world and take him on. It won’t be up to Ben, he’ll just play naturally.”
Volavola will have plenty of experience around him to rely on.  The job of neutralising potent centre Robbie Fruean will fall to Adam Ashley-Cooper, who will wear the No. 13 jersey, whilst fellow Wallaby Lachie Turner and speedster Tom Kingston, who notched up a hat-trick last weekend, will play on the wings.  In his third rugby union match, Israel Folau faces his toughest challenge yet as he lines up against All Blacks fullback, Israel Dagg.
Up front, the NSW squad features six internationals, lead by debutant captain Dave Dennis.  Behind the all-Wallaby front row of Robinson, Polota-Nau and Kepu, recent signing Mitchell Chapman will make his first appearance for NSW as he packs down alongside Sita Timani.
At breakaway, Cheika will try out another new name, as Sydney University flanker David Hickey gets his chance to impress.  One of a dozen promising NSW youngsters invited to train with the team through the off-season, the 21-year-old completes a back row that also features Dennis and Wycliff Palu.
“If we can go forward up front, then we’ll earn the right to go a bit wider and attack and hopefully put them under pressure,” said Cheika, before warning that he wasn’t expecting a perfect performance so early in the season. 
“It’s early days, we’re not going to get carried away. It’s more about the team realizing that this is the way we play, this is the team we are, and this is how we do it every day.
“It won’t just come in a few practice matches, it will take time for that to blend in when we’re under pressure, when we have adversity, to make sure we are true to the way we want to play.”
On the monster match-up between Wallaby and All Black No. 8s Palu and Keiran Read, Cheika said, “I have obviously only watched from as far and I like Keiran Read.  He is clearly a quality player, you can see has an important role within the All Blacks team as well the Canterbury team. We’re going to have to work hard to put him in his place otherwise he will run riot.”
Amongst the 14-man replacements is another newcomer in James Hilgendorf.  Currently living in Sydney, the former Eastwood and NSW  flyhalf has been called in as injury cover for Berrick Barnes and Bernard Foley, who are both expected back over the coming weeks.
The two sides last met in April, when a Fruean double sealed a  33-37 victory for the visitors in front of a 30,000-strong Allianz Stadium crowd.  
Tickets for the trial match, which kicks off at 7.30pm tomorrow, are available in advance from Ticketek or on the gate and are priced at $20 for adults, $10 for juniors and $40 for a family of four.  Entry is free to HSBC Waratahs Members upon production of their membership card.
Super Rugby trial match
Thursday February 14, 2013
Allianz Stadium, Sydney
15. Israel Folau (Unattached)
14. Lachie Turner (Eastwood)  
13. Adam Ashley-Cooper (Northern Suburbs)
12. Tom Carter (Sydney University)
11. Tom Kingston (Sydney University)
10. Ben Volavola (Southern Districts)
9. Grayson Hart (Southern Districts)
8. Wycliff Palu (Manly)
7.  David Hickey (Sydney University)
6. Dave Dennis (Sydney University), captain
5. Mitchell Chapman (Unattached)
4. Sitaleki Timani (Southern Districts)
3. Sekope Kepu (Randwick)
2. Tatafu Polota-Nau (Parramatta)
1. Benn Robinson (Eastwood)
Luke Holmes (Warringah)
John Ulugia (Southern Districts)
Paddy Ryan (Sydney University)
Jeremy Tilse (Sydney University)
Brendan McKibbin (Eastern Suburbs)
James Hilgendorf (Eastwood)
Cam Crawford (Northern Suburbs)
Michael Hodge (Sydney University)
Drew Mitchell (Balmain)
Michael Hooper (Manly)
Jed Holloway (Southern Districts)
Lopeti Timani (Southern Districts)
Kane Douglas (Southern Districts)
Greg Peterson (Manly)
Coaching Staff

Michael Cheika – Head Coach
Alan Gaffney and Daryl Gibson – Assistant Coaches






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