Wallaby Foketi set for Waratahs start after neck injury

Alex Mitchell |

Lalakai Foketi will make a welcome return to the NSW Waratahs starting team.
Lalakai Foketi will make a welcome return to the NSW Waratahs starting team.

The NSW Waratahs will hope Wallabies centre Lalakai Foketi’s return to their starting side can help them spark their Super Rugby Pacific campaign and roll the ACT Brumbies.

Little more than a month after Foketi was hospitalised with a neck injury, NSW coach Darren Coleman has picked the eight-cap Wallaby for his first start of the campaign.

His inclusion at inside-centre means Joey Walton switches to outside-centre and Izaia Perese will come off the bench for the classic rivalry clash with the Brumbies.

Foketi, who was subsequently cleared of major spinal damage after being rushed to hospital, played 27 minutes off the bench in the Waratahs’ 27-21 loss to the Melbourne Rebels last weekend.

It’s not the only boost among their team changes, with star Wallabies prop Angus Bell and flanker Charlie Gamble both included for their trip to the capital.

Bell
Powerhouse prop Angus Bell is back to boost the Waratahs. (Jason O’BRIEN/AAP PHOTOS)

But a season-ending knee injury to hooker Mahe Vailanu and head knocks for back-rower Langi Gleeson and bench talent Jack Grant will keep all three on the sidelines.

Hugh Sinclair will start in Gleeson’s place at No.8 as the Waratahs (1-5) fight to keep their season alive.

They’ll be battling a Brumbies side looking to mark veteran prop James Slipper becoming the Australian with the most Super Rugby caps with a win.

Slipper is set to make his 178th appearance, passing the mark set by former Brumby Stephen Moore.

James Slipper
James Slipper is set to become the most capped Australian Super Rugby player. (Lukas Coch/AAP PHOTOS)

The Brumbies, who’ve won four straight games to race up the ladder, have added forwards Nick Frost and Tom Hooper to the starting 15 from the team that beat the Queensland Reds 20-19 last weekend.

The Rebels will miss captain Rob Leota for their home game against the Fijian Drua after he sustained a calf niggle in their NSW win.

He’s not the only Rebel sidelined, with outside-back duo Lachie Anderson (concussion) and Jake Strachan (shoulder) also out for the AAMI Park contest.

Josh Canham takes Leota’s place after a forward pack reshuffle, while Nick Jooste will start at fullback and Glen Vaihu resumes on a wing.

The bottom-ranked Western Force will head to Auckland for their daunting match against the Blues without fullback Harry Potter (ankle).

Max Burey will start at No.15, while veteran lock Sam Carter will get his first start for the side since signing with them late last month.

AAP