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Rugby World Cup winner Tim Horan agrees with Waratahs coach Darren Colena’s decision to drop Mark Nawaqanitawase, saying the Wallaby needs a mental and physical break after a quiet start to the Super Rugby Pacific season.

Horan was watching on from the sidelines last weekend as the Waratahs fell to a disastrously heavy defeat to the Brumbies at GIO Stadium. But during that Australian derby, Horan noticed that Nawaqanitawase wasn’t as active as he normally is.

The Waratahs have a 1-6 record this season and have the Crusaders up next. The defending champions are one spot behind the New South Welshmen on the ladder with a 16.67% win percentage. For both teams, this clash seems to be a must-win.

Tahs coach Darren Coleman dropped a selection bombshell on Wednesday by omitting Wallaby Mark Nawaqanitawase from the matchday 23, with Triston Reilly coming into the starting side on the right wing.

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There are a handful of other changes to the Waratahs’ starting side, including the return of Langi Gleeson at No. 8, but there’s no question that the decision to drop Nawaqanitawase is one of the bigger talking points for the Tahs.

“Mark probably needed a break,” Wallaby great Tim Horan explained on Stan Sports’ The Call Up. “It just looked like the last couple of matches he wasn’t as engaged as he was this time last year.

“This time last year, he’s running inside of Jake Gordon, outside of Tane Edmed, he’s looking for opportunities.

“I saw on Saturday night in Canberra, he stayed on the wing more than what I’ve seen and didn’t go looking for a bit of work. He had a couple of opportunities in the second half but hardly touched the ball in the first half.

“I think he just needs to take a break mentally and physically and then bounce back the following week.

“But Triston Reilly gets an opportunity… Triston Reilly was really good with a couple of opportunities he’s had so far this year.”

Triston Reilly, 25, has scored one try from four Waratahs matches this season. The sole five-pointer came into the Waratahs’ only win of the season which was a 37-24 upset of the Crusaders in Super Round at Melbourne’s AAMI Park.

Reilly comes into the starting side after an impressive performance with Randwick in the Shute Shield. The winger joins Dylan Pietsch and Max Jorgensen in the Waratahs’ starting outside backs combination, with Wallabies Lalakai Foketi and Izaia Perese inside them.

Those players are either Test quality or almost at that level, but they’ve failed to fire for large parts of this season. With the Crusaders up next, and a potential chance to move into the top eight for the Tahs, this is one match they have to get right.

“(Reilly) had been very active and probably deserves to be out there,” ex-All Black Mils Muliaina said.

“I tend to agree. It’s that time of the year where you start to look at your top players and think, ‘Well, are they starting to plateau?’ Nawaqanitawase has.

“When you go to Canberra it’s pretty hard to get active anyway… Riley, he’s enthusiastic, he wants to look for work.”



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