March 19, 2017 / 3:56 AM / 5 months ago

Rugby-Heads on the block for struggling Waratahs, says coach

SYDNEY, March 19 (Reuters) - Frustrated New South Wales Waratahs coach Daryl Gibson has warned his players that heads will roll if they do not rapidly turn around their spluttering Super Rugby season after they suffered a 28-12 loss to the ACT Brumbies on Saturday.

The loss to the Brumbies, who were beset with off-field distractions this week with local media reports saying the team could be cut in a proposed Super Rugby shake-up, was the third in succession for the 2014 champions.

They sit fourth in the Australian conference on four points and ninth in the Australasian group. Their only win so far this season was a 19-13 victory over the equally woeful Western Force.

"Obviously things aren't working currently so we're going to have to really look at what we need to change to get them working, getting them to click," Gibson said. "That puts us into a real hole. We're in a real battle, again.

"That's down to our own doing, really, so we've got no one else to blame except ourselves."

The Waratahs have looked a shadow of the side that clinched the title three years ago under now Wallabies coach Michael Cheika.

The backline has lacked cohesion without flyhalf Bernard Foley, who continues to battle concussion and was a late withdrawal from the side on Saturday, and has failed to give strike weapon Israel Folau any meaningful opportunities or ball.

"At the moment, it's an execution problem. We've got a set gameplan but we're just struggling to get that in to play," the former All Blacks centre said, though he added that issues with the set piece contributed to the loss on Saturday.

"We lost four lineouts in the second spell, failed to convert any pressure into any points. The scrum late on came under pressure and we conceded some penalties.

"So it's disappointing. We can't continue to shoot ourselves in the foot each week through our own inaccuracies and (through) us succumbing to the pressure at set-piece time."

The Waratahs head to Melbourne to face the Rebels, another team reported to be in danger of being cut from the competition, for their clash on Friday.

The Rebels conceded more than 50 points in their first two games of the season but pushed the unbeaten Waikato Chiefs to the limit before leaking two late tries in the 27-14 loss on Friday. (Reporting by Greg Stutchbury in Wellington; Editing by Sudipto Ganguly)

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