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Israel Folau to start at outside centre for Waratahs, Rob Horne and Tolu Latu to miss games

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Israel Folau will start at outside centre this weekend against the Melbourne Rebels after Rob Horne was ruled out for 4-6 weeks with a fractured hand.

And the Waratahs' injuries worries have been compounded with news that hooker Tolu Latu will spend 6-8 weeks on the sidelines after tearing his hamstring.

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Folau double helps Waratahs edge Reds

A first half double from Israel Folau has helped the Waratahs take the points in an arm wrestle against the Reds.

NSW ground their way to a 15-13 win over the Queensland Reds in Brisbane on Sunday, courtesy of some astute game management from the returning Bernard Foley.

For the first time this season they fielded their best starting backline, but that looks set to change with Horne sustaining a fracture of the hand just before half-time.

NSW Waratahs coach Daryl Gibson described the injury as "a real blow for him" and made it clear he would like Folau to make his positional debut at outside centre, meaning Kurtley Beale will drop to fullback and David Horwitz can return to the starting XV at inside centre after favourable showings in his first three Super Rugby matches.

"That's the configuration I chose at half-time when I had to replace Rob," Gibson said. "It's about trying to fit our best players on the field at one time and that configuration was Horwitz at 12 and Folau at 13. That allows us to play Kurtley at fullback." 


"Having time off and away from rugby is not always ideal, but injuries do happen and it's unfortunate for him."

Meanwhile, Hugh Roach is in line to start this Sunday at hooker with Tolu Latu ruled out of action for up to two months.

"Hugh gets his opportunity to come into the team and then we're looking at reinforcing our hooking ranks with Folau Faingaa," Gibson said. "Injuries are all part of the game [so] I'm not too worried by them. We've just got to get on with it and worry about the people that we've got still in the jersey." 

Gibson said Benn Robinson's impact off the bench at prop was profound and helped turn NSW's scrum from being a pushover in the first 12 minutes – they conceded six penalties in that time – to holding their own against a well-drilled Reds pack.

The Waratahs' most capped player might even be in line to replace starting front-rowers Paddy Ryan or Angus Ta'avao come Sunday.

"Benn continues to work his way back to full fitness and I think as he continues to be more consistent on the training field he'll come into contention for a starting sport," Gibson said. "I'm very pleased to come out of that game with the four points. We were under considerable pressure at the scrum and I think the pleasing aspect is the way we came out with that; we conceded a penalty try and then from that point on I think our scrum went particularly well. It all points to improvement for me."

Gibson said, however, it wasn't all "doom and gloom" with Tatafu Polota-Nau tracking better than expected and eyeing a return against the Brumbies on April 16 after hurting his arm against the Canberrans in round two.

With NSW now two from four with another bye on the horizon after the Rebels game, Gibson admits his side have been far from clinical so far this year and can do better in a number of areas. 

"We've lost two games to a couple of tough teams in the competition and then won against the Reds who are definitely improving," he said. "It's shown us where we need to improve and if we're going to produce and be a threat in the competition."