McCaw clone stands in Tahs' way
MICHAEL Hooper wants his team to unleash "Waratahs footy" against the Crusaders on Sunday.
The NSW captain is adamant that despite a 2-3 win-loss record thus far, the club's supporters will be inspired by their style of play, glimpses of which were seen in the sensational 32-25 comeback win last weekend against Melbourne.
But standing in the way of "Waratahs footy" is Matt Todd, the Crusaders' No.7 who has taken over from Richie McCaw.
Todd is the man who will find a way to steal NSW's ball at loosely-guarded rucks, who will stifle their attacking momentum and deny them the ability to capitalise on attacking opportunity if the Tahs do not smash him off their ball.
Hooper insists the Tahs can beat the Crusaders if they play with style.
"Everyone can pilfer the ball these days and so it's about 15 men doing their job," Hooper said.
"As cliched as it sounds, you've just got to clean out well and do it for the duration of the game.
"Otherwise, it's going to cause you a lot of problems."
But NSW is confident that they'll not only nullify Todd, but deliver an attacking display that can break apart the undefeated Crusaders.
"Playing our rugby is very exciting footy for the fans, we've just got to do it," Hooper said.
"We want to have fans go, 'I can't wait to watch these guys get the ball in their hands,' and we love the fans when they get involved.
"We've got great fans, passionate fans, so yes we want to be able to play for them but we know to do that, it's about doing what we talked about.
"The comeback added viewing, gave it that extra bit for viewers.
"That's how we want to play: you look at our stats, you look at our metres, it's sharing the workload and that's Waratahs footy."
That will largely rest on the performance of debutant five-eighth and former Melbourne Storm under-20s player Mack Mason, who replaces Wallaby playmaker Bernard Foley (concussion).
"His control, his level head of the game, it's been really pleasing to watch," Hooper said.
"So, for him to get an opportunity and a rare opportunity at that with Nard being out for so many weeks, I'm really happy someone like him can step in and be confident and comfortable in the role.
"He's had a tough background with his league and his 20s stuff last year for a smaller guy and I've been impressed with him and looking forward to seeing him play."