Nawaqanitawase cops NSW Waratahs selection axe

NRL-bound Wallabies winger Mark Nawaqanitawase has been axed from the struggling NSW Waratahs lineup as they fight to keep their Super Rugby Pacific season alive.

Losers of five straight games, the Waratahs have replaced the 23-year-old who will join the Sydney Roosters in 2025 with Triston Rielly, coincidentally a player who spent last season with the NRL's Wests Tigers.

It’s the biggest decision coach Darren Coleman made in picking a side for Friday night’s clash with the Crusaders, when the 1-6 Waratahs simply must produce a response to their poor recent form.

 “It’s been a big headache in our backline but a good headache to have,” Coleman said.

“This week we have all of our contracted backs available which is unheard of. As a result, we’ve got some good players missing out.

“Triston deserves his chance … his effort areas like kick-chase and defence are really strong and I’m looking forward to what he can provide us this weekend.”

World Cup winger Nawaqanitawase has played all bar two minutes of the Waratahs’ seven SRP matches this campaign but has not been at his sparkling best and is yet to score a try.

He is set to join the Roosters at season’s end, when current Roosters talent Joseph-Aukuso Suaalii heads to the Waratahs.

NSW confirmed fellow Wallabies star Angus Bell will miss the rest of the season with the recurrence of a toe ligament issue suffered in Saturday’s loss to the ACT Brumbies.

Hayden Thompson-Stringer starts at prop in his place, while Ned Hanigan is an important inclusion after recovering from a knee injury.

Queensland continue to rotate their key play-making positions with Harry McLaughlin-Phillips coming in at No.10 for fellow young gun Tom Lynagh for the side’s clash with Moana Pasifika.

For Friday night’s game in Whangarei, the duo will continue to share the role after Lynagh started their most recent outing against the Brumbies.

Reds coach Les Kiss also recalled Wallabies winger Suliasi Vunivalu after he was benched for the Brumbies clash.

“We are fortunate with our stocks at No.10 but also aware of the player management needed over a long season,” Kiss said.

“Both are getting invaluable experience and playing plenty of minutes.

“Suli returns on the wing … we have given consideration to player management with Mac (Grealy), who has played a lot of minutes and will give us his flair in the back end of the game.”

The Melbourne Rebels recieved a big boost ahead of their home game against the Highlanders with a pair of Wallabies back in the lineup.

Fullback Andrew Kellaway returns after missing two games with a broken rib, while flanker Josh Kemeny is back after missing their last three outings.

The 4-3 Rebels have won their past two games and could further entrench themselves in the top eight with another victory.

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