BERNARD FOLEY hopes his debut as Waratahs playmaker will free Berrick Barnes to tap into his recent red-hot Test form and help the struggling side finish the season on a high during the next fortnight.
Barnes has moved to inside-centre in the Waratahs’ penultimate Super Rugby match against the Brumbies at ANZ Stadium on Saturday to accommodate Foley’s first provincial foray at five-eighth.
They ran in those positions at the squad’s training run yesterday, alongside returning winger Lachie Turner, Drew Mitchell, centre Rob Horne and utility Adam Ashley-Cooper.
Foley, who spent his junior years at No.10 before joining the Waratahs, said he was adjusting well to the change from fullback but still expected Barnes to lead from his outside.
”I don’t have to tread on Berrick’s feet, he’s still allowed to be the dominant playmaker and call the shots as well but it’s a way we can adjust and be more dynamic,” he said.
”It’s probably going to help Berrick play a bit more ad lib, he was allowed to do that at the Wallabies and you saw how successful it was for himself and the team. When Berrick plays the free-flowing football he’s capable of he’s at his most dangerous, so hopefully this is a way in which we can unleash Berrick Barnes in the Super competition.”
Foley appeared to slot comfortably enough into the playmaker’s position at training, but admitted feeling somewhat intimidated by the task of bossing around some of his heroes.
”It’s pretty overwhelming when you come into a side [with] the likes of the Wallabies – the Drew Mitchells, the Rocky Elsoms … all those guys, and then you’re in the position to steer them around,” he said.
”But if you rest on that I think you won’t really achieve your full potential, so I’ve got a job to do and that’s to lead them around. So hopefully if I get selected at 10 I can keep that communication up and steer them around.”
One of Foley’s main challenges will be manufacturing a connection with the Waratahs starting halfback who, by the looks of the combinations yesterday, could be Brendan McKibbin, Sarel Pretorius or even Grayson Hart, who was heavily involved in the session and has done well for Southern Districts at club level.
Foley said communication would be the eventual pairing’s best weapon against unfamiliarity.
”If there’s direct communication between you and the No.9 you really go a long way to achieving what your overall objective in the game is,” he said. ”There is that unfamiliarity but with that I suppose there’s that excitement, in that you’re not that sure what they’re going to do and you don’t know that they’re going to take the opportunities.”
Horne, who returned to the Waratahs late last week after a successful stint with the Wallabies, could not hide his relief at having the likes of Test-proven wingers Turner and Mitchell in the back line once more.
”It’s a good feeling,” he said. ”I’m really excited for Lachie to come back and play if he gets picked, and having those guys [and] training inside them again it’s good, there’s a lot of experience there and you can probably tell just by watching with the noise level and stuff like that, so it’s good.”
Foley and Horne missed the Waratahs’ round-11 clash with the Brumbies in May but both remember the two-tries-to-none education their teammates received.
”That was a frustrating game for us, in the first half we had the pressure on them and we were unable to convert that pressure into points and take our opportunities,” Foley said.
”They scored that try on half-time and that probably created a little bit of doubt in that [Waratahs] team and the Brumbies were able to get a bit of a roll on and we didn’t recover.
”That’s the thing that plagued us and is at the front of our minds at the moment, getting that back, and when we do get the opportunities, to take them.”
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