NSW Waratahs player. Will Miller Picture: Jamie Conroy/Waratahs media
NSW Waratahs player. Will Miller Picture: Jamie Conroy/Waratahs media

Unusual solution to Tahs’ No. 9 crisis

KURTLEY Beale is expected to play this weekend but the Waratahs are in the midst of a halfback injury crisis that could see flanker Will Miller spend time at scrumhalf this weekend.

With Wallaby Nick Phipps injured back in Sydney, NSW took Jake Gordon and Mitch Short on their South African-Argentinian tour.

Short suffered a season-ending knee injury last week, while Gordon has to overcome concussion testing protocols in the next 24 hours to be cleared to play after suffering a head knock against the Sharks in Durban.

The Tahs have been forced to fly club rugby player Nick Duffy as cover, with the rookie arriving in Buenos Aires late Wednesday night for this weekend's match.

If Gordon is ruled out tomorrow, Duffy would have to start against the Jaguares in his Super Rugby debut, while Miller would be the reserve halfback.

"Duff takes things in his stride, he's got a wry smile," NSW forwards coach Simon Cron said.

"He's not a big man so he should've been able to sleep on the plane.

"I think he's pretty excited about the whole scenario.

"[Gordon] is going through the return to play policy. He trained on Tuesday and got through well.

"I think he will end up being fine. Tomorrow will be a full noise session and we'll see how he comes through. Duffy is the cover at halfback."

While NSW coach Daryl Gibson said last week that five-eighth Bernard Foley would be back-up hafback if Gordon and Short went down in Durban, this week flanker Miller is the third-stringer.

"Miller will be ahead of Foley," Cron said.

"He's spent time at halfback for Norths, I think he fancies himself as a halfback."

The Tahs only contracted two halfbacks this season - Phipps and Gordon - leaving open the possibility that an injury crisis could leave them exposed as is the case now.

Kurtley Beale is expected to take his place against
Kurtley Beale is expected to take his place against

NSW will be desperate for Gordon to overcome his head injury assessment testing, or they'll be fielding the least experienced halfback duo in their history.

The expected inclusion of Beale, who is overcoming a rib injury and trained strongly this week, is now doubly important given uncertainty around the No. 9 situation.

"He's looking pretty good at the moment from what I've seen," Cron said.

"I would expect him to be playing.

"Kurtley is a livewire, he adds a lot to the backline, having him play is always better than not."

The Tahs' draw against the Sharks last week means they're still undefeated, while the Jaguares are winless in their first three games.

The locals will have the scrum advantage, and will look to offload in contact and off the ground to cut through the Tahs defence.

"The Jaguares love unstructured ball, they will play from anywhere, they love an offload," Cron said.

"The key for us to play structured, and build pressure."