Cron planning to keep Tahs forwards on song
THE Waratahs will field a bunch of new faces when they take on the Rebels in their final trial at Brookvale but one of the most important newcomers could prove to be a man on the sideline holding a walkie talkie.
The Tahs named their side for the trial on Thursday night and along with the return of big guns such as Kurtley Beale, Michael Hooper, Israel Folau and Michael Hooper, NSW will roll out new recruits like lock pair Rob Simmons and Tom Staniforth, and ex-Force backs Curtis Rona and Alex Newsome.
The Rebels will send out a bunch of ex-Force stars, too, like skipper Adam Coleman and Dane Haylett-Petty, but star halfback Will Genia and wing Marika Koroibete will be rested.
The trial will give insight into how both teams plan to play this season but the Waratahs will undoubtedly want to use their million-dollar backline as much as possible.
Making that happen is a responsibility that falls squarely on the shoulders of the Waratahs' forwards, and the responsibility for the NSW pack this year is new coaching recruit Simon Cron.
Cron was signed on to the Tahs after developing a strong coaching reputation in Sydney club footy - winning the Shute Shield with Norths in 2015 and finishing runners-up last year - and also coaching the Aussie under 20s.
It is Cron's first full-time coaching gig but NSW captain Michael Hooper has already been impressed.
"(He) loves the game, he's a student of the game, loves the tape and then the thing I've been most impressed with Simon is his ability to teach," he said.
"He's got a teaching background, so he can elaborate and really describe to the players what he's looking for.
"For a young squad, I think he's done a fantastic job so far. He's seen success at club level and we're hoping to do the same here."
The strength of the forwards remains the unknown element in NSW's upcoming season.
With Sekope Kepu serving the first game in a two-game suspension for his red card against Scotland in November, Paddy Ryan will start at prop and Damian Fitzpatrick has beaten Tolu Latu to start at no.2.
Simmons is an experienced campaigner and Staniforth is looking for more regular gametime than he was given at the Brumbies.
Ned Hanigan is being seen as a lock this year, and with Jack Dempsey not due back until May, the backrow against the Rebels will have Michael Wells at no.6 and Jed Holloway at no.8.
There are some impressive young guys rising through like Sham Vui, Harry Johnson-Holmes, Will Miller and Ryan McCauley, but none have much experience yet.
"We're looking for our forwards to get them (the backs) some space," Hooper said. "They've got some time in their pocket and the key is getting them some good front-foot ball."
Hooper said the injection of new talent in the Waratahs this year had seen "new ideas, excitement, intent and competition" brought to the franchise.
"(It) always re-energises you when you see someone with really good talent - someone like Will Miller has come in and turned some heads," Hooper said.
"In his first game, he was really good against the Highlanders, (and) you've got plenty of guys who can play seven within this team and across the backrow there's plenty of competition when everyone's fit, with Jack (Dempsey) coming back and Ned (Hanigan) sorting himself out. It's bound to breed some good performances."
The Waratahs will take on the Rebels on Thursday February 15, kicking off at 6:45pm AEDT.