NSW’s hopes of continuing a remarkable Super Rugby revival have been boosted by the decision of Blues coach Leon MacDonald to name a second-string team for Saturday’s final round clash at Sydney’s Leichhardt Oval.
Young loose forward Anton Segner is the only Blues player to retain his place in the starting line-up from the side that beat the Brumbies in Canberra last weekend.
The ladder-leading Blues have already locked up top spot heading into the finals and so Beauden Barrett, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Rieko Ioane and company are all on ice.
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“We are in no way disrespecting our opposition,” MacDonald said.
“We have a very healthy respect for the Waratahs and believe we have named a team able to perform to our standards against them.”
The Waratahs have an 8-5 record under new coach Darren Coleman following last year’s winless disaster.
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Sixth on the ladder, victory would give NSW a slim chance of hosting a quarterfinal but they are relying on both the Chiefs and Hurricanes to trip up.
The Chiefs are away to the Drua while the Hurricanes are visiting the Force.
Read on for all the latest round 15 team news.
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CRUSADERS vs REDS, Friday 5.35pm AEST in Christchurch
CRUSADERS (15-1): Will Jordan, Sevu Reece, Braydon Ennor, David Havili, Leicester Fainga’anuku, Fergus Burke, Bryn Hall, Cullen Grace, Ethan Blackadder, Pablo Matera, Sam Whitelock, Scott Barrett (c), Oli Jager, Brodie McAlister, George Bower
Reservations: Ricky Jackson, Finlay Brewis, Tamaiti Williams, Zach Gallagher, Tom Christie, Mitch Drummond, Chay Fihaki, George Bridge
REDS (15-1): Jock Campbell, Suliasi Vunivalu, Jordan Petaia, Hamish Stewart, Filipo Daugunu, Lawson Creighton, Tate McDermott (c), Harry Wilson, Fraser McReight, Angus Scott-Young, Ryan Smith, Seru Uru, Feao Fotuaika, Matt Faessler, Dane Zander
Reservations: Richie Asiata, Harry Hoopert, Sef Fa’agase, Angus Blyth, Connor Vest, Liam Wright, Kalani Thomas, Mac Grealy
DRUA vs CHIEFS, Saturday 1pm AEST in Lautoka
DRUA (15-1): Kitione Taliga, Ilaisa Droasese, Apisalome Vota, Kalaveti Ravouvou, Vinaya Habosi, Teti Tela, Frank Lomani, Nemani Nagusa (c), Rusiate Nasove, Joseva Tamani, Viliame Rarasea, Isoa Nasilasila, Kaliopasi Uluilakepa, Zuriel Togiatama Haereiti Hetet
Reservations: Tevita Ikanivere, Timoci Sauvoli, Manasa Saulo, Chris Minimbi, Mesulame Dolokoto, Peni Matawalu, Caleb Muntz, Onisi Ratave
Tima Fainga’anuku powers his way through for a big try
MOANA PASIFIKA vs BRUMBIES, Saturday 5.05pm AEST in Auckland
MOANA PASIFIKA (15-1): William Havili, Solomone Kata, Levi Aumua, Danny Toala, Timoci Tavatavanawai, Christian Leali’ifano, Jonathan Taumateine, Henry Time-Stowers, Alamanda Motuga, Solomone Funaki, Sam Slade, Michael Curry, Sekope Kepu (c), Ray Niula, Abraham Pole
Reservations: Samiuela Moli, Ezekiel Lindenmuth, Joe ‘Apiokotoa, Sione Tuipolotu, Lotu Inisi, Manu Paea, Fine Inisi, Anzelo Tuitavuki
BRUMBIES (15-1): Tom Banks, Tom Wright, Len Ikitau, Irae Simone, Andy Muirhead, Noah Lolesio, Nic White, Pete Samu, Jahrome Brown, Tom Hooper, Nick Frost, Darcy Swain, Allan Alaalatoa (c), Connal McInerney, Scott Sio
Reservations: Lachlan Lonergan, James Slipper, Sefo Kautai, Cadeyrn Neville, Rory Scott, Ryan Lonergan, Rod Iona, Hudson Creighton
Highlanders star banned for ugly tackle on Hooper
WARATAHS vs BLUES, Saturday 7.45pm AEST in Sydney
WARATAHS (15-1): Ben Donaldson, Mark Nawaqanitawase, Alex Newsome, Lalakai Foketi, Dylan Pietsch, Tane Edmed, Jake Gordon (c), Will Harris, Michael Hooper, Charlie Gamble, Ned Hanigan, Jed Holloway, Archer Holz, Dave Porecki, Angus Bell
Reservations: Mahe Vailanu, Tetera Faulkner, Paddy Ryan, Hugh Sinclair, Jeremy Williams, Rahboni Warren-Vosayaco, Jack Grant, Jamie Roberts
BLUES (15-1): Zarn Sullivan, Jacob Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens, Tamati Tua, Corey Evans, AJ Lam, Jock McKenzie, Sam Nock, Taine Plumtree, Adrian Choat, Anton Segner, Josh Goodhue, Luke Romano (c), Nepo Laulala, Ricky Riccitelli, Jordan Lay
Reservations: Soane Vikena, Karl Tu’inukuafe, Marcel Renata, Sam Darry, Cameron Suafoa, Akira Ioane, Taufa Funaki, Nigel Ah Wong
FORCE vs HURRICANES, Saturday 10pm AEST in Perth
HURRICANES (15-1): Josh Moorby, Wes Goosen, Bailyn Sullivan, Billy Proctor, Salesi Rayasi, Aidan Morgan, TJ Perenara (c), Brayden Iose, Du’Plessis Kirifi, Caleb Delany, Justin Sangster, James Blackwell, Owen Franks, Dane Coles, Pouri Rateke- stones
Reservations: Asafo Aumua, Xavier Numia, Tevita Mafileo, Blake Gibson, Ardie Savea, Jamie Booth, Jackson Garden-Bachop, Teihorangi Walden
REBELS vs HIGHLANDERS, Sunday 2pm AEST in Melbourne
REBELS (15-1): Reece Hodge, Lukas Ripley, Andrew Kellaway, Matt To’omua, Glen Vaihu, Carter Gordon, James Tuttle, Rob Leota, Brad Wilkin, Michael Wells (c), Josh Canham, Matt Philip, Pone Fa’amausili, Jordan Uelese, Matt Gibbon
Reservations: James Hanson, Cameron Orr, Cabous Eloff, Ross Haylett-Petty, Richard Hardwick, Joe Powell, Nick Jooste, George Worth
HIGHLANDERS (15-1): Liam Coombes-Fabling, Fetuli Paea, Josh Timu, Thomas Umaga-Jensen, Rory van Vugt, Marty Banks, Aaron Smith (co-c), Marino Mikaele-Tu’u, Billy Harmon, James Lentjes (co-c), Josh Dickson, Bryn Evans, Jermaine Ainsley, Andrew Makalio, Ethan de Groot
Reservations: Rhys Marshall, Daniel Lienert-Brown, Saula Ma’u, Sam Caird, Hugh Renton, Folau Fakatava, Vilimoni Koroi, Denny Solomona
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