Waratahs look to youth

20/12/2007 4:15:12 PM
Steve Orme

The newly-named Junior Waratahs are set to feature heavily in the return of the traditional 'curtain-raiser' throughout the 2008 Super 14 season.

Known previously as the Waratah Academy, the Junior Waratahs are scheduled to play three matches at Super 14 fixtures beginning with a clash against Country in Gosford on February 1.

The Junior Waratahs will seek to follow the lead of the fearsome Junior All Blacks, who have forged a strong reputation within world rugby.

"The Junior All Blacks are more than just a back up side, they're a proud and highly competitive entity in their own right, and that's the kind of commitment and performance we expect from the Junior Waratahs," Waratahs head coach Ewen McKenzie said.

"We had a need to dig deep into our playing reserves during 2007 and we're not afraid to do it again should the need arise."

"So it's important that we provide the next tier of player a suitable competitive base and this program goes some way to doing that."

The 2008 Junior Waratahs feature 14-tight-five players, including six props and three hookers, and also includes five 2007 Australian Schoolboys and four Australia A Schools representatives.

The 10-professional players in the 27-man-squad will train over summer with the Waratahs with the remainder to spend one session a fortnight with the Super 14 squad, in addition to an already rigorous schedule of nine-sessions a week.

"We don't make any apologies for how hard it is," Junior Waratahs head coach Joe Barakat said.

"The major objective of the Junior Waratahs is to nurture players with the ability to perform at the highest level, and that involves being able to cope with a fair amount of physical and mental stress."

"It's also important that we send them back to their clubs as improved players and individuals, so they can continue their development playing week in week out."

"Ultimately game time is paramount and the representative program has been designed to ensure the players are in peak form for the start of the club season."

"So making it easy on them at this early stage in their development would be counter-productive."