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It's Waratahs v Blues, not Australia v NZ

NZN 4/05/2017 Darren Walton

It's a clash of Test-match importance for the NSW Waratahs, but coach Daryl Gibson has cautioned his side against getting bogged down in any unnecessary trans-Tasman rivalry with the Blues on Saturday night.

The Waratahs are fighting to stay in the 2017 finals race, with a fourth straight home defeat almost certain to put paid to their playoff prospects ahead of a round-12 bye next weekend.

A seventh successive victory over the Blues at Allianz Stadium, though, could conceivably draw the Waratahs level with the Brumbies atop the Australian conference.

But, despite everything at stake, the build-up has been dominated by New Zealand's dominance of Australian opposition this season as the Tahs chase a first win from 16 trans-Tasman match-ups.

"We're certainly focused on the Waratahs playing the Blues. We don't want to make it about Australia versus New Zealand," Kiwi Gibson said on Thursday.

"We know if we turn up and play well, we're going to be a really good chance.

"The focus for us is around our performance, making sure that we acquit ourselves well and we represent our jersey with pride."

The Waratahs are intent on committing to their dogged ball-in-hand style, but will also be happy to accrue points through the super boot of five-eighth Bernard Foley.

The ice-cool Wallabies playmaker slotted seven goals - including the match winner in the penultimate minute of last Saturday night's thrilling 29-26 comeback win over the Queensland Reds.

"The Blues have got a good defensive wall, are not afraid to give away those penalties and really compete hard at the breakdown," Gibson said.

"With Bernard Foley in the form that he is, and under pressure we've seen just how good he really is, that's certainly an area (we can exploit) and a source of points for us.

"In tight fixtures, we've talked as a team that maybe the best option is to take the three points that are on offer."

Wallabies hooker Tolu Latu will return from a shoulder injury, relegating Hugh Roach to the bench, but blockbusting winger Taqele Naiyaravoro has been ruled out with a broken hand, replaced by Reece Robinson.

Gibson has reinstated Jake Gordon at halfback despite a strong display from Wallabies No.9 Nick Phipps against the Reds.

Gibson said he had a rotation policy in place and that Gordon remained his first-choice option.

In the only other change to the starting line-up, Jed Holloway returns at No.8, with Michael Wells going to the bench.

NSW Waratahs: Israel Folau, Reece Robinson, Rob Horne, David Horwitz, Cam Clark, Bernard Foley, Jake Gordon, Jed Holloway, Michael Hooper (capt), Ned Hanigan, David McDuling, Dean Mumm, Sekope Kepu, Tolu Latu, Tom Robertson. Reserves: Hugh Roach, Paddy Ryan, Angus Taavao, Will Skelton, Michael Wells, Nick Phipps, Bryce Hegarty, Irae Simone.

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