Rugby Union: Waratahs on show

Derrick Whyte looks at the task facing the Borders today as New South Wales fly in
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The Independent Online
Craig Chalmers will sit out the Borders friendly today but judging by the strength of the visitors, the mighty New South Wales, the Scottish outside-half probably isn't too worried.

The Scottish Rugby Union has asked for Chalmers not to play after consultation with the Borders management amid concern that he will be risking his availability for the international against Australia in three weeks. Selected at centre for the Borders, Chalmers has not fully recovered from the knee injury which forced him off in the European qualifying defeat to Glasgow a week ago.

His place will be taken by Hawick's Cammy Murray, but the real blow to the Borders fans is the absence of David Campese from the visitors' line- up. The mercurial winger, now 35, is believed to be back home shooting a promotional video and did not travel with the Waratahs tour party which jetted into Edinburgh on Friday. However, the New South Wales line-up does include the former Australian captain and hooker Phil Kearns, who will be joined in the front row by Tony Daly whose try clinched the World Cup triumph over England in 1991.

The Borders manager, Alastair Cranston, admitted he was disappointed by Campese's absence. "He's obviously a big crowd puller and it's a pity he is not here, but we are under no illusions that whoever plays in his place will be top quality," he said. After losses to Caledonia Reds and Glasgow in their opening two inter-district matches following six straight European Cup defeats, one might imagine a visit from Super 12 opposition far from ideal as a way of bolstering fragile confidence. But Cranston is adamant his men will be keyed up against a side expected to field a host of emerging talent at the Greenyards.

"Where we are at the moment, we can only go one way and that is up. What has been disappointing lately is the way we have failed to raise our game against the districts as we did in the European games despite the defeats. But we are delighted to have these two games against Super 12 opposition with the Capital Territories to follow, and if we can play the type of game we are capable of I'm sure the boys will bounce back," Cranston added.

Kearns is also determined to bounce back after enduring a nightmare last 18 months when knee and Achilles tendon problems have threatened to bring an end to a distinguished career.

"This tour is another step back on my path to full recovery and I certainly haven't given up hope of getting my place back in the national side. There are plenty of guys who have a point to prove after what has been a pretty disappointing season back home for us.

"We only managed four wins to finish around 10th in the Super 12 and I know the management are looking for some new blood. It's a fairly young team over here at the moment but they are all keen to do well because everyone is trying to cement their place for next year."

The Waratahs will move on to meet Richmond next Saturday with two further midweek clashes against London Irish and Cardiff to follow.