Waratahs begin charm offensive

LOCAL rugby union fans will have a chance to mingle with Wallabies Phil Waugh and Berrick Barnes this week when the pair hit town to promote the Waratahs v Reds Super 14 trial on Saturday.

A blockbusting weekend of rugby begins at 3pm on Friday with an open training session at Oakes Oval, Lismore, when fans are encouraged to come along and see the stars put through their paces by Chris Hickey, the former Ballina Seahorses mentor who now coaches the Waratahs.

After the training session fans will be invited on to the field to meet and greet the players – The Northern Star on Friday will include a free colour poster, perfect for autographs.

Barnes, who last year was named Wallabies vice-captain, is expected to be in full swing for the training run after recovering from the ankle injury that has kept him sidelined since October.

The elusive playmaker, with 21 international caps, returned to contact training earlier this month and is keen to be fully fit for the start of the Super 14 season where he will take on his former Reds team-mates at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane.

On the other hand Waugh, who has captained the Wallabies three times, is recovering from back and shoulder injury and will be looking to get back into action as soon as possible and force his way back into the national side. One of the toughest forwards seen in a gold jersey, Waugh has been a casualty of the Robbie Deans youth policy which has seen his collection of Test caps stall at 79.

Waugh and Barnes will be at the ‘Dine with the Waratahs’ dinner on Friday night and available to meet fans and sign autographs after the training run. Following the signing session, Ewen McKenzie’s Reds will get accustomed to Oakes Oval, holding their own open training session in preparation for the big match.

Rugby league convert Will Chambers will train and is expected to get plenty of game time on Saturday; Reds international stars James Horwill, Will Genia, Peter Hynes and Digby Iaone will be on the sideline to watch their team having its first hit-out of 2010.

While main grandstand seating has sold out for the clash, there will still be more than 2000 tickets available at the gate.

Patrons have the choice of bringing chairs or blankets to take up a spot on the hill, or using the ground’s other undercover seating.

Tickets for the ‘Dine with the Waratahs’ function are $90 per head or $850 for a table of 10. They are on sale through Lismore Information Centre on 1300 369795. Deadline to purchase is 5pm Wednesday.

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