'Superstars all over' Blues backline poses Waratahs' 'biggest challenge'

'Superstars all over' Blues backline poses Waratahs' 'biggest challenge'

In the ultra-competitive landscape that is Super Rugby Pacific this year, Waratahs coach Darren Coleman faces one the trickiest tasks of the season in round four.

Former Wallaby Tim Horan and ex-All Black Mils Muliaina have both labelled the Blues "too tough" for the Waratahs.

The Sydneysiders have won once this season, upsetting a depleted Crusaders in Super Round, 37-24.

They opened their account with a 40-22 drubbing at the hands of the Reds in Brisbane but only narrowly lost to the Highlanders at home in a 23-21 thriller.

The Blues have two wins from three, beating the Fijian Drua 34-10 at home and the Highlanders 37-29 away.

Their 29-21 loss to the Hurricanes in Wellington came as something of a surprise off the back of last year's semi-final run.

Although not an insurmountable task for the Waratahs, the Blues bring a powerful backline featuring Caleb Clark, Mark Telea, and Zarn Sullivan.

"I think this is probably the biggest challenge for Darren Coleman this year for the Waratahs," said Tim Horan on Stan Sport show The Call Up

"Yes, the Crusaders when they beat them, that was a good upset but they had lost a few players (but) this is a red-hot backline for the Blues. 

"Zarn Sullivan, a wonderful player. (Mark) Telea, Caleb Clarke, there are superstars all over that back line. 

"So how do you contain the Blues backline? That's the challenge for the Waratahs on Saturday night."

Tane Edmed of the Waratahs reacts after missing a penalty goal to win the match. (Getty)

The Blues have made five changes ahead of round four with the return of Ofa Tu'ungafasi, Caleb Clarke, and Bryce Heem in the starting 15.

Akira Ioane moves from No.8 to blindside flanker while Hoskins Sotutu starts at No.8 having been on the bench in round three.

The Waratahs, meanwhile, have made a handful of changes.

Wallabies centre Izaia Perese will return from concussion to start in the centres.

Perese replaces Harry Wilson in the starting lineup while Triston Reilly comes in for Dylan Pietsch on the left wing.

Mark Nawaqanitawase moves from the wing to fullback, a move Horan is happy to see made.

"I think that's a good option," said Horan.

"We've tried so many fullbacks for the Wallabies over the last three or four years. 

"You look at Tom Banks, Tom Wright, (Andrew) Kellaway, (Ben) Donaldson as well. Mark Nawaqanitawase, I think it's good. 

"It's probably going to open his eyes up to the game a little bit more. Mills, you'd agree, when you're on the wing a long time, sometimes you've got to go looking for work where if you're at 15, the ball is going to find you a lot more, so he'll get more opportunities at the back."

Muliaina added, "He dictates a bit more and he sits in the middle of the park, demanding of you wingers. 

"And when the ball is getting kicked back to your wingers you're almost organising it yourself. I think he's a player that likes that.

"He likes the fact that he can get the ball into his hands from his wingers and have a really good crack after a wide ball."

WARATAHS vs BLUES in Sydney, Saturday 7.35pm kickoff AEDT

WARATAHS (15-1): Mark Nawaqanitawase, Triston Reilly, Izaia Perese, Joey Walton, Dylan Pietsch, Tane Edmed, Jake Gordon (c), Langi Gleeson, Charlie Gamble, Ned Hanigan, Fergus Lee-Warner, Jed Holloway, Harry Johnson-Holmes, Julian Heaven, Hayden Thompson-Stringer

Reserves: Jay Fonokalafi, Angus Bell, Tom Ross, Miles Amatosero, Hugh Sinclair, Lachlan Swinton, Jack Grant, Harry Wilson

BLUES (15-1): Zarn Sullivan, Mark Telea, Rieko Ioane, Bryce Heem, Caleb Clarke, Stephen Perofeta, Finlay Christie, Hoskins Sotutu, Dalton Papalii (c), Akira Ioane, Laghlan McWhannell, Josh Beehre, Marcel Renata, Kurt Eklund, Ofa Tu'ungafasi

Reserves: Soane Vikena, Joshua Fusitu'a, Angus Ta'avao, Cameron Suafoa, Anton Segner, Sam Nock, Harry Plummer, Cole Forbes

Referee: Jordan Way

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