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Palu back to stiffen up Waratahs

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

SYDNEY - Strike forward Wycliff Palu returns to the starting line-up in one of a raft of changes to the NSW Waratahs team to host the Hurricanes in Saturday night's Super Rugby crunch match at Allianz Stadium.

Paul, who started off the bench in Saturday's 21-13 loss to the Blues in Auckland following his father's death earlier this month, will pack down at No.8 in a back-row reshuffle.

Skipper Dave Dennis shifts from No.8 to blindside flanker, with Jacques Potgieter moving into the second row and Will Skelton relegated to the bench for a match the Waratahs must win to retain a place in the top six ahead of next week's points-less bye round.

Coach Michael Cheika has also made a change to the front row, with Paddy Ryan to start at tighthead instead of Sekope Kepu, who was hooked before the half-hour mark in Auckland.

In the backs, Matt Carraro comes onto the wing for Cam Crawford, who has been named on an extended bench alongside Alofa Alofa, who is hoping to return from injury.

Flanker and vice-captain Michael Hooper says Palu's inclusion can't be under-estimated.

"First of all, it's great motivation having Cliff back," Hooper said.

"It will be nice to have the big man back. His physicality and the opposition knowing he's in the team is a good to have."

After a slow start to the season, the fourth-placed Hurricanes have surged to the top of the New Zealand conference after a string of wins.

"They're certainly playing some really good football. They've changed their style of attack and how they go about things and it seems to be working for them," said Waratahs centre Adam Ashley-Cooper.

"So they're certainly competing up there with the Chiefs and they're obviously leading the New Zealand conference ladder for a reason. They're a good team.

"For us, it's a really big game. We're at home, we need to win. Obviously it wasn't the result we wanted last week and I feel this game could define our season."

Waratahs: Israel Folau, Matt Carraro, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Kurtley Beale, Rob Horne, Bernard Foley, Nick Phipps, Wycliff Palu, Michael Hooper, Dave Dennis (capt), Jacques Potgieter, Kane Douglas, Paddy Ryan, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Benn Robinson. Reserves: Tola Latu, Jeremy Tilse, Sekope Kepu, Will Skelton, Stephen Hoiles, Pat McCutcheon, Brendon McKibbin, Jono Lance, Alofa Alofa, Cam Crawford (two to be omitted).

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