Waratahs have point to prove

Waratahs captain Dave Dennis tried in vain to dampen speculation that NSW's Super Rugby derby against the Brumbies on Saturday is being fuelled by lingering tensions over the Wallabies late-night drinking controversy in Dublin last year.

The backrower gave away a telltale smile when asked whether Saturday's game in Canberra had an extra edge because of Dublin, when six players were suspended for one match and nine reprimanded by Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie.

"There is always going to be a bit of feeling, isn’t there? The way we want to play, we want to play our type of game and be honest and physical.

"So if there is an opportunity to whack one of the Brumbies boys we will try and do it. But that’s all part of how we want to play as a team. It is very much our style.

"There is never any love lost. You saw against the Reds there is a bit of feeling too, the way the boys played and the way the forwards played. It was nice and physical, plenty of shots on.

"Whether you want to see [Saturday's game] as a personal battle, or you want to see it as just NSW versus ACT first and foremost ... we want to beat them."

Since the spring tour, talk in rugby circles has suggested the Waratahs - eight of whom were in the 15 Wallabies punished in Dublin - view Saturday's fixture as an opportunity to settle their differences with a couple of Brumbies in the Australian squad who they believe alerted team bosses to an unauthorised drinking session.

It is understood much of the resentment has been towards Brumbies backrower and captain, Ben Mowen, and hooker Stephen Moore.

The Waratahs players suspended were centre Adam Ashley-Cooper, hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau, and props Benn Robinson and Paddy Ryan. The four Waratahs reprimanded were Dennis, second-rower Kane Dougles, five-eighth Bernard Foley and half-back Nick Phipps.

The Brumbies declined to comment.

Asked if some of the suspended Waratahs had pencilled in Saturday's fixture as special for what happened in Dublin, Dennis, again with a smile on his face, said: "All that stuff’s in the past, honestly mate.

"A lot of that stuff [on the spring tour] was out of our hands. So it's hard to blame anyone for it. It’s happened and you move on.

"There are guys there who were disappointed with how things went, but it was three or four months ago now.

"Every time you play an Australian team you want to get the wood over them. We want to win our conference. That’s first and foremost.

"We went down there last year [and lost 35-6] and got belted around as a forward pack. So we don’t want that to happen again. If it means getting stuck into some of our national teammates, then so be it.

"We talk about finishing first or second [in the Super Rugby competition] – and the best way to do that is to win your conference.

Dennis, who is "100 per cent ready" after missing the Reds clash due to a knee injury, is wary of the Brumbies attack. After a shaky season start with their loss to the Reds (17-27), they have claimed impressive wins against the Force (27-14) away and the Hurricanes (29-21) in Wellington.

"Against the Force and the Hurricanes they showed a different edge to their attack and looked to try and play the ball a bit more.

"They have had two good wins and scored [seven] tries in their last two games. They are more than capable of playing running rugby.

"It's probably just taken a little bit of time to transition from what they were used to last year to what [coach] Steve Larkham wants them to do this year.

"They look as thought they are building nice momentum."

The story Waratahs have point to prove first appeared on Canberra Times.

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