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Zac Guildford

Zac Guildford

Troubled former All Black Zac Guildford said the Waratahs had offered him a contract for next season, handing yet another lifeline to the bad boy of New Zealand.

Still only 26, Guildford’s career has been blighted by alcohol issues and he walked out of a contract with French Top 14 side Clermont in May – citing “personal reasons”.

Since then, the wing – who scored 6 tries in 10 Tests for the All Blacks – has been playing for his home provincial team Hawke’s Bay.

Guildford said Waratahs coach Daryl Gibson had approached him about joining the Sydney-based Super Rugby side, who lost wings Peter Betham and Taqele Naiyaravoro at the end of the 2015 season.

Guildford and Gibson, himself an All Black, worked together when Gibson was assistant coach at the Crusaders.

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Israel Folau

Israel Folau

Waratahs Rugby and the Australian Rugby Union have confirmed the re-signing of fullback Israel Folau on a 3-year flexible contract which will keep him in Australian rugby until at least 2018.

The 26 year-old joined the Waratahs for the 2013 season, making an immediate impact to the side with his impressive speed and agility.

In just his 2nd year in the code, he was named 2014 Australian Super Rugby Player of the Year after an outstanding season in which he scored 12 tries in 14 matches and was an integral member of the title-winning team.

A key member of the team’s leadership group, Folau was named as vice-captain for the 1st time in 2015, and held the role for 5 matches.

2016 Waratahs head coach Daryl Gibson said he was pleased that Folau had committed to stay in Australian rugby.

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Chris Malone

Chris Malone

Former Bath, Harlequins and London Irish flyhalf Chris Malone will join the Waratahs next season as attack and kicking coach.

The Waratahs confirmed the appointment of Malone as assistant coach to Daryl Gibson on a 3-year contract, to commence with the 2016 season.

Malone, who will be a specialist attack and kicking coach, was recruited from the Sydney University club where he has been coach of the 1st grade Shute Shield side since 2013.

Gibson, who will move from assistant to head coach when Michael Cheika leaves at the end of the season, said the appointment of Malone would bring a fresh perspective to the coaching team.

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Super RugbyIt is the Semi-Final Round of Super Rugby 2015 this weekend.

There are only 2 matches in the Round, 1 in New Zealand and 1 in Australia.

1St Place on the Combined Log, the Hurricanes hosts the lowest Qualifier, the Brumbies. In the other match 2nd on the Log, the Waratahs hosts the other qualifier from last weekend, the Highlanders.

The 2 Franchises who finished in the No 1 and No 2 spots on the Combined Log, the Hurricanes and Waratahs respectively, have had wonderful rest weekends, as they sat out during the Top 6 Qualification Round last weekend.

The action is kicked off by the Hurricanes vs Brumbies who do battle in Wellington at 09:35 SA Time (19:35 NZ Time, 17:35 AEST, 07:35 GMT) on Saturday 27 June.

A little later, over in Sydney, Australia, the Waratahs plays the Highlanders at 11:55 SA Time (19:55 AEST, 21:55 NZ Time, 09:55 GMT).

After this Round only 2 Teams remain to contest the Final next weekend.

The Hurricanes vs Brumbies game should be an absolute cracker after the Brumbies’ massive win over the DHL Stormers last weekend, but one would have to give a nod to the most consistent team of this year’s series, the Hurricanes, who have stood out head and shoulders above all comers in 2015.

Both teams sport great backlines but I am of the opinion that the Hurricanes are punching at the weight they should always punch at in 2015, and I give the win to them, but not by a large margin.

As far as the other match is concerned, do we give home ground advantage enough weight to speculate that the Waratahs will overcome the staunch Highlanders in Sydney… even though their regular league season was not as brilliant as last season, OR do we say that the Highlander’s faerie tale will continue in 2015?

It is a difficult call to make and I’m leaning towards the Waratahs making it at home in Sydney!

Meanwhile 11Teams are already lounging around, no longer part of the race to the finish line.

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WaratahsWaratahs head coach Michael Cheika has named the team to face the Highlanders in the 2015 Super Rugby Semi-Final to be played at Allianz Stadium, Sydney on Saturday 27 June. Kick-Off is at 19:55 AEST (21:55 NZ Time, 09:55 GMT).

Matt Carraro has been named to play in the centres after Kurtley Beale failed to complete training on Thursday.

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Stephen Hoiles

Stephen Hoiles

Waratahs flank Stephen Hoiles has warned that the Highlanders pack could cause problems for the defending champions heading into the semifinal clash in Sydney on Saturday.

The Highlanders pack completely outmuscled the Chiefs in the Super Rugby preliminary play-off match last week – defeating the Chiefs 24 / 13.

“Watching their play-off match the other day, they were very impressive and they have been impressive all year,” Hoiles said in an interview on the Waratahs website.

“Probably because of how strong that New Zealand conference has been,” he added.

“They have snuck under the radar for most of the season, but the last few weeks it has been really obvious just how exciting they are.

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Kurtley Beale

Kurtley Beale

Waratahs’ centre Kurtley Beale is in a race against time to be ready for the Waratahs’ semifinal match with the Highlanders in Sydney on Saturday.

Neither Beale nor wing Rob Horne trained with the side on Tuesday, and while Horne is expected to recover from a calf niggle in time, Waratahs assistant coach Daryl Gibson conceded time is against them regarding Beale’s injured quadriceps.

Gibson said Beale would be given until Thursday to be ready, but the Waratahs were preparing for versatile utility Matt Carraro to reprise the role he took at short notice against the Reds a fortnight ago.

“Beale’s been doing his exercises and getting up to a running pace that enables him to at least have a chance on Thursday to see if he can make it,” Gibson said.

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Michael Hooper

Michael Hooper

Wallabies flanker Michael Hooper has signed a new contract with the Australian Rugby Union (ARU) and the Waratahs which will keep him at home until the end of the 2018 season.

The hard-running 23-year-old, who captained the Wallabies last season and has played 42 tests for his country, is a certainty to be in the Australia squad for this year’s World Cup.

“The opportunity to play for my country is something I am very passionate about, and is a huge reason why I wanted to commit beyond my current term,” he said in a news release.

“I am just stoked to be in this position. To be able to stay here in Australia allows me represent my country, state, club, and all of the people who have supported me since I began playing rugby.

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Israel Folau

Israel Folau

Even with the Top 14 Final looming, the French media rumour mill has gone into overdrive about Southern Hemisphere players heading north for the next season.

Waratahs superstar Israel Folau is the latest Wallaby linked to a move to cash-flush French club Toulon.

Toulon president Mourad Boudjellal, who has never been scared to wield his substantial cheque book to lure big names to Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, has already made substantial acquisitions for the 2015 / 2016 season.

According to the French sporting newspaper Midi Olympique Boudjellal and his people are already speaking to Folau.

If the 2-time European champions convince the Wallaby fullback to head to France after the World Cup, in England in September and October, he will join a long list of high-profile recruits.

Already said to be heading to Toulon for the new season are Ma’a Nonu (from the Hurricanes), Jonathan Pélissié (from Montpellier), France Thibault (from Oyonnax), Salesi Ma’afu (from Northampton Saints), Samu Manoa (from Northampton Saints), Mohamed Boughanmi (from Béziers), Julien Caminati (from France Grenoble), Quade Cooper (or so they claim, from the Reds), James O’Connor (another unconfirmed arrival – from the Reds), Charles Ollivon (from Bayonne), Anthony Etrillard (from Bayonne) and Paul O’Connell (from Munster).

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Will Skelton

Will Skelton

Tolu Latu

Tolu Latu

The Waratahs have formally appealed against the bans slapped on 2 of their players and the new hearing will take place on Thursday.

The judicial hearing held on Monday 25 May found Will Skelton and Silatolu (Tolu) Latu guilty of contravening Law 10.4 (j): Lifting a player from the ground and dropping or driving that player into the ground whilst that player’s feet are still off the ground such that the player’s head and / or upper body come into contact with the ground is dangerous play.

Skelton was given 2 weeks and Latu handed 4, for spear tackling Crusaders’ lock Sam Whitelock.

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Tolu Latu

Tolu Latu

Will Skelton

Will Skelton

2 Waratahs players were cited and suspended after the niggly Waratahs display on the weekend in their match against the Crusaders. Will Skelton was suspended for 2 weeks and Tolu Latu for 4 weeks.

It appears that the Waratahs will appeal the findings of both Hearings.

 

Will Skelton:

A SANZAR Judicial Hearing has found Will Skelton of the Waratahs guilty of contravening Law 10.4 (j) Lifting Tackle, after he was cited following a Super Rugby match at the weekend. Skelton has been suspended for 2 weeks up to and including Saturday 6 June 2015.

The incident occurred in the 17th minute of the Super Rugby match between the Waratahs and Crusaders at ANZ Stadium in Sydney on 23 May 2015.

The SANZAR Judicial Hearing was held by Robert Stelzner SC via video conference at 15:30 AEST (17:30 NZ Time, 07:30 SA Time) on 25 May 2015. Mike Mika was the former professional player who attended as a Judicial Technical Adviser.

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Tatafu Polota-Nau

Tatafu Polota-Nau

Wallabies hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau, who said earlier this month he might retire if he was badly concussed again, will be rested from Super Rugby for another 3 weeks to ensure he has fully recovered from a head knock.

The hard-running No 2 suffered the latest in a long string of concussions in the Waratahs’ win over the Brumbies in Canberra on 1 May and has not played since.

Michael Cheika, both Waratahs and Australia coach this year, said the 29-year-old would not play against the Crusaders this weekend or on the 2-match tour of South Africa that follows the 2014 Super Rugby final re-match.

“There is no point in taking him to South Africa and having doubts over him,” Cheika told reporters on Tuesday.

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Jono Lance

Jono Lance

Out of favour Waratahs’ utility back Jono Lance will join the Western Force for 2016, after signing with the franchise for 2 seasons.

Lance, who can play flyhalf, centre and fullback, hasn’t been featuring at the ‘Tahs playing behind Wallabies such as Bernard Foley, Kurtley Beale, Israel Folouu and Adam Ashley-Cooper, and is ready to play a starting role in Super Rugby.

He was a starting member of the Queensland Reds’ 2011 Super Rugby championship-winning team, before joining the Waratahs ahead of the 2014 season.

The 24-year-old son of former Canberra Raiders rugby league captain, Dean Lance, has represented the Australian Under 20 (2010) and Sevens squads (2010 / 2011).

Lance says he’s excited to have the opportunity to represent the Force from next season.

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Taqele Naiyaravoro

Taqele Naiyaravoro

The Waratahs’ Fijian-born wing Taqele Naiyaravoro’s is finally cleared to travel outside Australia.

It was confirmed on Thursday that the Australian Department of Immigration finally approved a temporary work (long stay activity) visa (subclass 401).

It ended a diabolical state of affairs that effectively forced the defending champions to use separate home and away wings in pursuit of their title defence this year.

The Waratahs confirmed in a statement that Naiyaravoro will be available to travel with the team to South Africa later this month – where they will play the Emirates Lions and Toyota Cheetahs – pending approval of an entry visa by South African government.

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Jacques Potgieter

Jacques Potgieter

Springbok Jacques Potgieter won’t be facing his new team, the Cell C Sharks, when they face the Waratahs in Sydney on Saturday.

Potgieter, who has been nicknamed ‘Jackpot’ by his Waratahs teammates, has been ruled out of the Super Rugby Round 14 encounter with an ankle injury.

The Waratahs head into the match up coming off a disappointing loss to bottom of the conference Western Force on the road.

The Sharks are coming off a game that ended in similar fashion.

The Sharks played terrific rugby in their game against the Hurricanes last week but ultimately lost.

As usual, the talk around the paddock at training was all about the forwards.

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Taqele Naiyaravoro

Taqele Naiyaravoro

The Scottish Rugby Union is set to spend a 6-figure fee to sign powerhouse Fijian-born wing Taqele Naiyaravoro, with the aim of making him eligible to play for Scotland after a 3-year residency period.

Naiyaravoro, who has been compared to All Blacks legend Jonah Lomu, declined to comment on reports he had signed with Edinburgh, but Waratahs CEO Greg Harris said the Fijian-born powerhouse had a contractual obligation to the Scottish team.

This clause in the contract states that if the Australians call him up for international duty, he will remain in the Southern Hemisphere.

According to reports in Australia, New South Wales Waratahs wing Naiyaravoro has been allocated to Edinburgh as part of a 3-year deal worth AUS $ 1 million to the 23-year-old.

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Tatafu Polota-Nau

Tatafu Polota-Nau

Waratahs and Wallabies hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau could take a long leave of absence from rugby or even the quit the game entirely if he suffers another heavy head knock.

Polota-Nau, who has been working with Australian neurologists on the effects of concussion, was forced from the ground with a head injury early in the Waratahs’ Super Rugby win over the Brumbies in Canberra on Friday.

The 29-year-old was also forced to miss a couple of games in the southern hemisphere’s provincial championship earlier in the season after suffering another blow to the head at training.

4 Months out from the World Cup, Polota-Nau, who has amassed 50 caps for Australia despite battling a litany of injuries throughout his career, said he was taking a cautious approach to his playing future.

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Mick Mathers

Mick Mathers

Former Wallaby and Waratahs captain Mick Mathers has been appointed President of New South Wales Rugby Union, taking over from Tim Gavin who has stood down after 3 years in the role.

As a player Mathers represented the Waratahs on 14 occasions, and played 2 Test matches for Australia in a distinguished career on the field. Mathers also had the honour of captaining the Wallabies in non-Test touring matches.

He has held the position of Vice-President of NSWRU for the last 3 years, prior to that he held positions on the Unions Judicial panel and was Team Manager of the Waratahs in the early days of Super Rugby.

Former World Cup winning fullback Marty Roebuck was elected to the vacant Vice Presidents position.

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Super RugbyThe Vodacom Bulls are back at the Top of the South African Conference, taking over from the DHL Stormers who came up short in Bloemfontein on an exhilarating Saturday of Vodacom Super Rugby.

The weekend started on a disappointing note for the Cell C Sharks in Dunedin though. After a solid start for the visitors, the Highlanders turned on the heat and eventually beat the Durbanites by 48 / 15 in their opening tour match Down Under.

Saturday saw 2 cracking local derbies, both won by the home teams.

1st Up, the Toyota Cheetahs caused a minor upset when they won their 3rd successive home game against the DHL Stormers in Bloemfontein, by 25 / 17.

The home team outscored the visitors by 3 tries to 2 and thoroughly deserved their 4th win of the season. It was also only the 3rd time in 14 matches that the DHL Stormers could not score any Log Points against the Toyota Cheetahs.

The final match of the weekend was a proper humdinger in Pretoria, where the Vodacom Bulls beat their neighbours, the Emirates Lions, by 35 / 33. A total of 7 tries were scored as both sides went hammer and tongs against each other for the full 80 minutes.

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Sam Johnson & Greg Petersen

Sam Johnson (left) and Greg Peterson will be joining Glasgow Warriors next season

Glasgow Warriors have signed Australian centre Sam Johnson from the Reds and USA international lock Greg Peterson from Leicester Tigers, with the duo set to be at Scotstoun until at least May 2017.

Both players have signed 2-year contracts with the Guiness PRO12 side, subject to visas and medicals.

21-year-old Johnson 1st played schoolboy rugby for Australia ‘A’ after winning the Associated Independent Colleges competition with St Edmund’s College in 2011.

He played Rugby League for the Gold Coast Titans Under 20’s after school, before returning to Rugby Union at the end of 2013, when he joined the Reds wider training squad and returned to his former club GPS.

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Super RugbyIt was a weekend of drama and excitement in South Africa as the DHL Stormers moved to the Top of the local Super Rugby Conference and the Emirates Lions kept alive their dream of reaching the Top 6.

The Emirates Lions beat the Toyota Cheetahs by 34 / 29 in an 8-try humdinger on Saturday afternoon to record their 6th victory of the season, making 2015 their 2nd best yet but with 6 Rounds to go.

Last year, the Emirates Lions finished with 7 wins, 2 better than their 5 from 2007, but they are on track to better their best in the coming weeks.

The Toyota Cheetahs also deserve a lot of credit for never giving up as they returned to Bloemfontein with 2 bonus points.

The 2nd local match on Saturday delivered heaps of drama and the result was in the balance right until the end, but the DHL Stormers hung on for their 2nd victory over the Vodacom Bulls this season as they won by 15 / 13.

The visitors from Pretoria scored the only try of the match when Bjorn Basson went over early in the 2nd half, but the match-clinching moment came at the death when Duane Vermeulen charged down an attempted drop-goal by Handré Pollard to lead his side to their 7th win of the season.

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Dave Dennis

Dave Dennis

Head coach Michael Cheika has made a number of changes to the Waratahs team to take on the Melbourne Rebels at ANZ Stadium on Anzac Day.

Captain Dave Dennis moves to the No 8 role, while Wycliff Palu will start on the bench.

Mitchell Chapman moves into his role at lock and Tatafu Polota-Nau returns to the starting line-up.

Peter Betham keeps his place on the right wing ahead of Taqele Naiyaravoro, after this week announcing his move to England to join Leicester Tigers.

Adam Ashley-Cooper makes his 2nd start since returning from injury at outside centre.

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Dave Dennis

Dave Dennis

Waratahs captain Dave Dennis has signed a new contract with the ARU keeping him in Australia for at least 2 more years.

The 31-year-old who can play in both the 2nd row and the back row, has signed up through to 2017 as he looks to help the Waratahs retain their Super Rugby title.

Injury kept him out of the knockout stages of last year’s win, but Dennis has been in good form so far this season.

The fact he is staying will be a welcome boost for Daryl Gibson, who will replace Michael Cheika as Waratahs boss at the end of the season.

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Peter Betham

Peter Betham

Australia and Waratahs wing Peter Betham has agreed a move to join Leicester Tigers at the end of the Super Rugby Season.

The 26-year-old is currently playing Super Rugby with defending champions the Waratahs and on Saturday he scored 2 tries in Wellington as they became the 1st team to defeat the Hurricanes this season.

Born in Wellington, New Zealand, Betham was brought up in Sydney and had spells with the Brumbies and Melbourne Rebels as well as with the Waratahs.

He made his Wallabies debut in a Bledisloe Cup fixture against the All Blacks in 2013.

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Super RugbyThe DHL Stormers finished their Australasian tour with a 2nd win while the Vodacom Bulls consolidated their position at the Top of the South African Conference as Vodacom Super Rugby 2015 entered the 2nd half of the season.

However, the Toyota Cheetahs and Cell C Sharks both lost at home as the teams from Pretoria and Cape Town opened up a bit of a gap in the local conference and the Vodacom Bulls moved up to 2nd on the overall log.

The DHL Stormers were made to work hard for a scrappy win in Perth on Saturday afternoon as they defeated the struggling Western Force by 13 / 6, the only 5-pointer of the encounter a Penalty Try to the visitors after yet another superb scrum. The win concluded their best Australasian tour in 3 years.

Back home, the Vodacom Bulls and Cell C Sharks delivered a typically hard local derby in Durban with the 3-time champions from Pretoria ultimately winning by 17 / 10, with each team scoring a solitary try.

The Toyota Cheetahs unfortunately could not build on their good win in Perth last weekend when they were beaten by 18 / 17 by the Reds in Bloemfontein.

Down Under, the defending champions – the Waratahs and the Chiefs recorded impressive victories in Wellington and Christchurch respectively.

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Kurtley Beale

Kurtley Beale

Wallabies and Waratahs centre Kurtley Beale admits contract talks have been playing on his mind.

Beale’s current deal expires at the end of this season and he said on Monday he aimed to reach a decision on his playing future before the end of the Super Rugby tournament.

“It’s always going to be there isn’t it,” Beale said.

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