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Foley wants Tonga trial to give injury-hit Tahs taste of unexpected as opener looms

Date

Georgina Robinson

Gone to ground ... Lopeti Timani, a member of the "other" Tongan squad playing at the SFS tonight -- those Waratahs players with a Tongan connection -- checks out team training from the stadium's turf.

Gone to ground ... Lopeti Timani, a member of the "other" Tongan squad playing at the SFS tonight -- those Waratahs players with a Tongan connection -- checks out team training from the stadium's turf. Photo: Steve Christo

WARATAHS coach Michael Foley is hoping an unpredictable Tongan side gives his injury-depleted squad plenty to think about in its final trial at the SFS tonight.

The withdrawal of Wallabies hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau was the latest injury to hit the Waratahs a week out from their Super Rugby season-opener against traditional rivals the Reds.

Polota-Nau will join fellow Test representatives Rocky Elsom, Dan Vickerman, Lachie Turner and Drew Mitchell on the sideline tonight but is expected to be available next weekend.

And while a largely inexperienced Tonga - who will feature none of their World Cup players - are not expected to pose the Waratahs too great a threat, the trial will provide vital game time for wingers Brackin Karauria-Henry and Tom Kingston, as well as replacement hooker Damien Fitzpatrick.

Fitzpatrick was told on Wednesday he would be elevated to the side for the first two quarters. John Ulugia will come off the bench to play the third and fourth quarters.

''I'm very pleased,'' the 22-year-old said after the Waratahs' captain's run yesterday.

''It's not good that Taf went down, and you don't wish that on anyone, but with injury comes opportunity, so I'm looking to take that definitely.''

Foley was also talking about ''opportunity'' yesterday. ''Damien played particularly well last week. He's a guy that's going to play more game time this year and we've got John Ulugia who's the third hooker,'' he said.

''We played him at tight-head last week, so he's a prop for us, but he's also a hooker so he'll get an opportunity to play [tonight]. So it's good for Taf that he's having the rest and I'm pretty excited for Fitzy as well.''

Foley said NSW had not analysed their opponents, who will back-up to play the Junior Waratahs on Sunday as part of the Pacific Rugby Cup. He said the unknown element would be good for his squad.

''I think what we wanted to achieve with the Samoan game is not dissimilar … whatever they throw at us, we need to be able to cope with and we need to be able to make adjustments on the run,'' he said. ''We obviously have some plans to implement in the game but, last week, we had torrential rain which no one expected, and I thought the guys adjusted particularly well. I hope it's particularly unpredictable from them, and we see how we cope in different circumstances.''

Foley also downplayed the impact of Wallabies second-rower Vickerman's possible retirement.

''I think Dean Mumm, Kane Douglas, Sitaleki Timani and Greg Peterson present you with some pretty good options, and Richard Stanford, who's got Super Rugby experience, has been training with us,'' he said.

''He played in our trial last week and he'll play again tomorrow night, and Dave Dennis, who's playing very well at six, can also play lock.''

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Sat, 07 JunTimes shown AEST
SAM 18 vs TGA 18 Report Stats
FJI 25 vs ITA 14 Report Stats
NZL 20 vs ENG 15 Report Stats
AUS 50 vs FRA 23 Report Stats
Sun, 08 JunTimes shown AEST
RSA 47 vs WXV 13 Report Stats
ARG 17 vs IRE 29 Report Stats
USA 6 vs SCO 24 Report Stats
CAN 25 vs JPN 34 Report Stats
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Round 2
Sat, 14 JunTimes shown AEST
SAM 15 vs ITA Report Stats
FJI 45 vs TGA 17 Report Stats
NZL 28 vs ENG 27 Report Stats
AUS 6 vs FRA Report Stats
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RSA 38 vs WAL 16 Report Stats
CAN 17 vs SCO 19 Report Stats
ARG 17 vs IRE 23 Report Stats
USA 29 vs JPN 37 Report Stats
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Round 3
Sat, 21 JunTimes shown AEST
ARG 19 vs SCO 21 Report Stats
FJI 13 vs SAM 18 Report Stats
JPN 26 vs ITA 23 Report Stats
AUS 39 vs FRA 13 Stats
NZL 36 vs ENG 13 Report Stats
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RSA 31 vs WAL 30 Report Stats
USA 38 vs CAN 35 Report Stats
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