Waratahs coach Daryl Gibson has switched around his starting side as he looks to create an ‘unbeatable’ beast in their last five games.
The Waratahs have returned Will Skelton, Nick Phipps and Taqele Naiyaravoro to their starting side to face the Rebels, as they fight for their season.
NSW’s yo-yoing season has to end now, Gibson said, with poor first halves costing them a handful of chances for wins this year.
“That’s what we’re aiming for – we need to be unbeatable for the next five games, it’s simple as that,” he said.
Gibson said he wasn’t overly worried by the need to chop and change his side almost every week, still searching for an elusive 80-minute performance.
“It’s not concerning – really searching for that performance,” he said.
“Talked a lot around, we’re an excellent team for 40 minutes and really our focus is to be an 80-minute team and when we do that, I believe we can be unbeatable.
“We’ve shown that against some excellent sides and so that’s what I’m searching for and that’s the challenge for our players to perform for the full 80.”
Halfback Phipps is starting ahead of Jake Gordon, with the Wallabies back-up impressing off the bench against the Blues.
Phipps’ firecracker energy was a dangerous addition in the Waratahs’ last Australian derby, against the Reds, and they’ll need it again to try and correct their sluggish starts.
“He’s really earned his way there, he’s been putting in a lot of work in behind the scenes really working hard at his game and that’s starting to pay for him.
“(I asked him to get) back to really working hard on his craft, that was the number one thing and he’s done that.
“He’s probably worked the hardest of any player in our organisation to get back to what he was previously.
“He’d be the first to admit he’d slipped off that.”
One player Gibson expects a lot from this week is Will Skelton, who has been rewarded with a start after a super 40-minute cameo against the Blues a fortnight ago.
“I’d like him for the full 80, if he can produce what we produced in 40 minutes, 18 carries in 40 minutes and probably I felt his best game for a couple of years.
“He’s been outstanding and we need more from him and we need more from other people as well.”
Skelton has plenty of motivation to make an impression as well, with potentially just five games left as a Waratah, before joining UK club Saracens.
Naiyaravoro replaces Reece Robinson in the starting XV on Sunday, returning from a broken hand, while Michael Wells is back at no. 8.
The Waratahs host the Rebels on Sunday afternoon, kicking off at 4:05pm AEST, LIVE on FOX SPORTS and via RUGBY.com.au RADIO. Tickets on sale at http://www.waratahs.com.au.
IN: Taqele Naiyaravoro, Damien Fitzpatrick,
OUT: Reece Robinson, Hugh Roach
1. Tom Robertson
2. Tolu Latu
3. Sekope Kepu
4. Dean Mumm
5. Will Skelton
6. Ned Hanigan
7. Michael Hooper ©
8. Michael Wells
9. Nick Phipps
10. Bernard Foley
11. Cam Clark
12. David Horwitz
13. Rob Horne
14 Taqele Naiyaravoro
15. Israel Folau
16. Damien Fitzpatrick
17. Paddy Ryan
18. Angus Taavao
19. David McDuling
20. Jed Holloway
21. Jake Gordon
22. Bryce Hegarty
23. Irae Simone