Rugby Union

NSW Waratahs coach Daryl Gibson predicts fierce competition for places

NSW Waratahs coach Daryl Gibson anticipates the next two weeks will feature fierce competition for spots as the start of the regular season edges closer. 

A final trial against the Highlanders in Queenstown on Friday will be the last opportunity for Gibson to nut out his best 15 starting players to take on the Reds on February 27. 

Israel Folau and Bernard Foley will get some game time under their belts as will Sam Lousi. With flanker Dave Dennis and lock Jed Holloway (both concussion) expected to be cleared after head knocks against the Brumbies in Wagga last weekend, Gibson says there will be plenty of healthy rivalry for positions. 

"You've got a number of guys returning from injury, so that'll be good and positive for the squad and competition for spots will be heating up now as we get to the pointy end of getting to select the first team to take on the Reds," Gibson said. "I'd say both of those guys [Dennis and Holloway] are pretty eager to get some game time." 

After his first full pre-season at the helm – and not in the shadows of Michael Cheika – Gibson is content with how the Waratahs are shaping up in terms of skills and fitness. 

"We've had the fortune of having that longer pre-season with the World Cup finishing in October and so we're certainly really comfortable with where guys are at with their fitness in terms of preparation going into the season," Gibson said. "The game on Friday will be a good indicator of where we're at and what we need to improve on and then heading into the Reds we know it's for real this time. Things are getting to that pointy end where we know we've got to start producing good wins." 

After time to reflect on the Waratahs' 17-12 loss to the Chiefs on Friday, Gibson reiterated his belief those in the back line need to repay the hard work of the forwards who have been surprisingly proficient with scrums and line-outs in recent weeks. 

"It's our finishing at the moment. We're creating plenty of opportunities with ball in hand and probably leaving too many tries out on the field at the moment and not maximising our opportunities that we're presenting," Gibson said. "That's going to be a focus for us. Pressure now comes onto the backs to make sure that every ball we get we're doing the best we can with it." 

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