Big chance to affect the game ... Tilse. Photo: Anthony Johnson
IT HAS taken Jeremy Tilse seven years to earn his first start for the Waratahs, but now it has come, the Novocastrian has a rare chance to turn the match, says former Wallabies and NSW prop Al Baxter.
Baxter, who retired at the end of 2011 with 69 Test caps - a record for a Wallabies prop - and 121 for NSW, said Tilse's potential impact against the Queensland Reds at Suncorp Stadium is huge, as Reds tight-head James Slipper has the added responsibility of being captain.
Baxter said no position in the game offers as much one-on-one confrontation than that of a front-rower. He said that meant Tilse had a big chance to affect the game.
''If you can upset the game of the captain then you can go a fair way in upsetting the game of the team. So [Tilse] has a good opportunity here to do some real damage against Queensland,'' Baxter said.
The Reds, especially Slipper, are likely to challenge Tilse physically and psychologically - with a few barbs for good measure. But as Baxter said: ''I'm sure stuff will be thrown up there. But Tilsey is one of three brothers. I'd be surprised if that affected him. He can give as good as he gets.''
However, Baxter did warn Tilse: ''To be switched on from the start. The scrum, the first one, is going to be very tough mentally and physically.''
Baxter has not forgotten what it is like to be thrown in the deep end, as Tilse has been by NSW coach Michael Cheika for Saturday's game.
His advice for Tilse in handling pre-game uncertainty and butterflies was simple.
''Back yourself,'' he said. ''He wouldn't be put there if he wasn't the best man for the job. Cheika isn't running a charity. He has to believe that he is the best man for the job, the best man in NSW for the No.1 jersey.''
Baxter also said Tilse, who joined NSW in 2006 but made his Super debut in 2007, had been in Cheika's selection frame for some time. He was told by Cheika a month ago that Tilse was one of the revelations to emerge in pre-season.
''I asked Cheik, 'Who surprised you? Who are the guys who really went well in pre-season?' He [Tilse] is one of the guys he named,'' Baxter said. ''He has worked his arse off for the past years. He has been behind Robbo [Benn Robinson] and Keps [Sekope Kepu] … two Wallabies. So if he is going to make the starting side he has to be bloody good to do it.''