Blues and Highlanders to test Waratahs readiness

Getty Images and James Mortimer     20 Dec 2013     Getty Images

It will be Michael Cheika's teams second trial match, playing the Rebels before two matches against Kiwi rivals.

“Watching Benji transition from league to union will be interesting especially given the very successful debut season by Israel Folau," the former Crusaders back said.

Assisting Marshall’s transformation is a young and exciting backline that has a mix of experience with Ma Nonu plus exciting youngsters Charlie Piutau and Francis Saili as well as last season’s leading try scorer in Super Rugby, Frank Halai.

There’s a lot at stake in the final trial against the Highlanders at Newcastle’s Hunter Stadium.

Forget what position the Highlanders finished 2013, they’ll be brutal at the breakdown, and out to boost their confidence before game one knowing a win against the Waratahs would certainly do that.

For the Waratahs, it’s the last chance to impress the coach and show team mates they want a spot in the opening game against the Western Force.

“We will learn a bit about ourselves against the Highlanders, they are a contact based team and that will test us in different ways.” claims Gibson.

Newcastle is also firmly entrenched in the history of the game in NSW. Four years after the NSWRU was founded in 1884, came the formation of the Newcastle Rugby Union, known as the Northern Branch. Newcastle Rugby has supplied 25 Wallabies, taking a game to Hunter Stadium is simply a matter of honouring tradition.

“If they weren’t there to support and watch us there would be no professional game, if you play rugby in a full stadium compared to an empty stadium the game is just not as good, it is that simple.