Waratahs hooker Damien Fitzpatrick has overcome an injury worry, named to start against the Stormers.

Fitzpatrick suffered a PCL injury in the Waratahs’ final trial, against the Rebels at Brookvale Oval, lasting just four minutes of that game and pitting him against the clock in a race to be fit for round one.

Waratahs coach Daryl Gibson said Fitzpatrick had shaken off the concern early in the week, putting him in the box seat to take the starting hooker spot, in a side with nine Waratahs debutants and two Super Rugby debutants.

The 28-year-old has been cleared, though, and will start for the Waratahs, with Hugh Roach on the bench and Tolu Latu missing out on the 23 altogether.

Gibson said Latu, who just 15 months ago was starting for the Wallabies, had a fight on his hands to return to the matchday 23.

“That one there is an interesting battle, (it) will go all year,” he said.

“Damien and Hugh have done well, they’ve been there all through preseason and they’ve really had some quality performances.

Paddy Ryan has been picked at tighthead in Sekope Kepu’s absence because of suspension, while Tom Staniforth has been given the nod at lock, opening the door for Ned Hanigan to continue playing at blindside, after initially being touted as a lock option.

It’s a new-look pack for the Waratahs, who will be missing Will Skelton and Dean Mumm this season, with Gibson backing youth, particularly on the bench, in the forwards.

“They’ve earned their position,” Gibson said.

“We’ve got some young guys coming through our system and we want to give them their opportunity.

“They’ve been excellent to date in terms of their preparation and it’s a case of giving them an opportunity.”

Lalakai Foketi has pipped Curtis Rona for the starting 13 spot, after an impressive preseason, pushing Rona out to the wing, with Andrew Kellaway on the other edge. 

Wallabies back-up nine Nick Phipps is missing with a calf injury, throwing Jake Gordon into the fray for round one.

The Waratahs take on the Stormers on Saturday February 24, kicking off at 7:45pm AEDT. Buy tickets here.

TEAM

Waratahs to face Stormers

1. Tom Robertson (27)

2. Damien Fitzpatrick (31)

3. Paddy Ryan (91)

4. Tom Staniforth (*)

5. Rob Simmons (*)

6. Ned Hanigan (15)

7. Michael Hooper (80, captain)

8. Michael Wells (15)

9. Jake Gordon (12)

10. Bernard Foley (87, vice-captain)

11. Curtis Rona (*)

12. Kurtley Beale (110)

13. Lalakai Foketi (*)

14. Andrew Kellaway (20)

15. Israel Folau (75)

Reserves

16. Hugh Roach (30)

17. Harry Johnson-Holmes (*)

18. Shambeckler Vui (*)

19. Nick Palmer (*)

20. Jed Holloway (23)

21. Mitch Short (*)

22. Bryce Hegarty (13)

23. Alex Newsome (*)

Stormers to face Waratahs

1. Steve nKitshoff

2. Ramone Samuels

3. Wilco Louw

4. JD Shickerling

5. Pieter-Steph du Toit

6. Silya Kolisi

7. Kobus van Dyk

8. Nizaam Carr

9. Dewaldt Duvenage

10. Damian Willemse

11. Raymond Rhule

12. Damien de Allende

13. JJ Engelbrecht

14. Dillyn Leyds

15. SP Marais

Reserves

16. Dean Muir

17. JC Janse ven Rensburg

18. Carlu Sadie

19. Chris van Zyl

20. Sikhumbuzo Notshe

21. Justin Phillips

22. George Whitehead

23. EW Viljoen

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