New South Wales Waratahs’ Tane Edmed set to play against Chiefs

Tane Edmed looks set to get the first crack at No.10 for the Waratahs against Kiwi opposition despite the return of fellow Tahs young gun Ben Donaldson for Friday’s opening match of the Super Round in Melbourne.

While Tahs assistant Chris Whitaker wouldn’t be 100 percent definitive when asked about the hot compeititon for the spot this week, he hinted that Edmed, 21, had done enough to force Donaldson to return from the bench against the Chiefs.

Whitaker said Will Harrison, the third of the three promising young fly halves at Darren Coleman’s disposal, would not be considered as a starter at 10 this weekend.

“Last year it was hard to get guys in the squad because we had so many injuries,” Whitaker said.

“This year there’s so much competition which is good. The five-eighth spot is one of them.

“We’ve got three young 10s who are all fighting for positions.”

He said that ahead of the team’s first training session in Melbourne, Edmed and Donaldson had their hands up for the No.10 jersey.

Tane Edmed of the Waratahs passes the ball during the round one Super Rugby Pacific match between the Waratahs and the Fijian Drua at CommBank Stadium on February 18, 2022 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Brett Hemmings/Getty Images)

Tane Edmed (Photo by Brett Hemmings/Getty Images)

“Every week is a blank slate. Tane has played a few games in a row now quite well so it’s going to be tough to bump him out of that spot. I’m not giving too much away but it’s going to be hard to make too many changes there.”

Whitaker said the team had been going to school on the Chiefs by watching videos of their recent games against Crusaders and Hurricanes, but had ignored the Blues’ 25-0 win over them as they felt the Auckland side was too different in style to the Tahs for it to give them pointers.

“When we were watching the game last night Michael Hooper pointed out that these guys are very similar to the Fijian teams, just a lot more structured. They have the danger of the unstructured play, turnover ball, counter attack it’s where probably they’re the most dangerous and you just can’t turn your back on them.”

Defence has been a cornerstone of improved performances by the Tahs and Whitaker is hoping it stands firm this weekend.

“It’s probably lucky we played Fiji twice because our game plan kind of suited that game – not opening the the game up too much, playing to our strengths, not letting them into the game. Hopefully it holds us in good stead.”

There is nervous excitement with the Australian Super teams this week as they prepare for their first trans Tasman challenges of the year.

“It’s almost like a benchmark to see how we’re going,” Whitaker said. “The [Aussie] guys know each other, so you go into those games and you kind of know where you’re at.

“Against the Kiwi teams, there’s probably a bit more anticipation, a few more nerves, just that uncertainty of how you sit and how our style of footy is going to stack up against them.”

This week is important for the Tahs but, Whitaker says, “for Australian rugby as well.”

“We’ve got to compete and we’ve got to win some games that’s for sure.”

Waratahs forward Hugh Sinclair is feeling the rise in excitement levels and believes his team can cope with the pressure.

“There’s no denying the fact the Australia record against Kiwi sides is not great but there’s just 15 blokes on the field, you’ve just got to do what you’ve got to do take some confidence from the last eight weeks and play like we want to play,” said Sinclair.

Preparing for an increase in tempo and intensity has been the team’s focus.

“They love quick ruck speed so you’ve got to slow that down,” Sinclair said.

“We’ve been able to do that against the Aussies teams and Fijians but it’s a different beat against the Kiwi sides.

“Last year we weren’t as strong defensively so we’re really looking forward to testing ourselves. Slow the break down and their counterattack is next level so when we’re kicking  don’t give them time and space.

“The Kiwi sides play a more clinical version of how Fiji plays – they like to throw the ball around, but their scrum lineouts and mauling is better. It’s a different beast around the breakdown, ruck speed all that stuff. We’ll be prepared.”

Edmed is singing from the same song sheet.

“The thing about the Kiwi teams, especially the Chiefs, is that they thrive on that unstructured attack – they love that turnover ball, and they take those opportunities really quickly,” he said.

“For us, it’s trying to minimise those opportunities and just play our game and try and keep the game in control.”

Similar conversations are happening for the Queensland Reds ahead of their clash with the Hurricanes on Saturday.

“It’s a different brand of rugby we’re going to be playing,” said centre Hamish Stewart.

“It’s a little more upbeat, up-tempo – we’ve got to be on our toes. We’ve been training that this week and we’re looking forward to it. They’re a class team, all Kiwi teams are but we’re ready to bounce into them.”

Stewart said the squad had been buoyed by the return last week of Suli Vunivalu after a long injury absence, and were eager to set him loose on Kiwi opposition.

“Suli makes an impact wherever he goes,” Stewart said. “He’s a quality player, he’s a freak and it’s good to have him back in the team.

“He’s an elite player in the air and we’ll look to utilise that against the Kiwi. We’re looking forward to exposing him against some of the smaller blokes – letting him run over people. “

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