Wallaby heavyweights Wycliff Palu and Benn Robinson will be back in action for the Waratahs this Friday, taking on Tonga at the Sydney Football Stadium in final preparation for the start of the Super season the following week.
Knee surgery ruled Robinson out of contention for last October's World Cup, while hamstring concerns left Palu unable to see out the tournament but both are now back to full fitness and raring to go.
The match also marks the Waratahs debut for Adam Ashley-Cooper, who returns to NSW to having previously represented the state as a junior.
"The inclusion of Benn, Cliff and Adam is another step forward in our preparations for round one next weekend, and gives us the opportunity to progress combinations with a view to our first Super game against Queensland," said head coach Michael Foley.
To accommodate the returning internationals, Foley has also made a number of positional changes that will see Sekope Kepu switch to tight-head, Brackin Karauria-Henry move from fullback to left wing and Pat McCutcheon revert to his preferred open-side flank position.
The match will also be another opportunity for 20-year-old flier Tom Kingston, who this week gets a run on the right wing, following last Friday's injury to Lachie Turner.
With Foley and the coaches keen to maximize game time ahead of next Saturday's big round one clash with Super champions the Queensland Reds at ANZ Stadium, the match will follow a similar format to last week.
The sides will once again be led by Berrick Barnes and Daniel Halangahu, after both earned the praise of coach Foley for their composure in difficult conditions against Samoa last Friday.
"The Samoa game was a good test of our ability to control the game under difficult circumstances, notable an unpredictable opposition and very challenging weather conditions.
"I thought our two forward packs gave us good platform and our nines and 10s in particular made excellent decisions. One thing that stood out for me was our discipline, we retained our composure in difficult conditions, and on the back of that we were able to control the game by sticking to what we said we wanted to do. That will give us plenty to build on against Tonga," he finished.
Waratahs (first two quarters): 15 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 14 Tom Kingston, 13 Rob Horne, 12 Tom Carter, 11 Brackin Karauria-Henry, 10 Berrick Barnes (captain), 9 Sarel Pretorius, 8 Wycliff Palu, 7 Pat McCutcheon, 6 Dave Dennis, 5 Kane Douglas, 4 Dean Mumm, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Benn Robinson.
Waratahs (last two quarters): 15 Bernard Foley, 14 Nathan Trist, 13 Michael Hodge, 12 Toby Browne, 11 Peter Betham, 10 Daniel Halangahu (captain), 9 Brendan McKibbin, 8 Lopeti Timani, 7 Chris Alcock, 6 Tevita Metuisela, 5 Greg Peterson, 4 Richard Stanford, 3 Paddy Ryan, 2 Damien Fitzpatrick, 1 Jeremy Tilse.
Replacements - from: John Ulugia, Lotu Taukeiaho, Liam Winton, Seilala Lam, Grayson Hart, Jesse Leota, 22 Tom Hill.
Date: Friday, February 17
Venue: Sydney Football Stadium
Kick-off: 19.40 (08.40 GMT)
Referee: Ian Smith (Australia)
Assistant referees: James Leckie (Australia), Ed Martin (Australia)
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