Barnes facing selection battle

08 February 2013 06:48:06 EST

Midfielder Berrick Barnes has been warned that he is unlikely to be handed a starting role in the Waratahs' opening Super Rugby clash with the Reds.

Berrick Barnes continues to struggle with a knee injury.

The Wallaby midfielder has been ruled out of the final two trials of the pre-season with a knee injury picked up during training on Tuesday and while he sits out Saturday's game with the Blues in Whangarei, he will have to watch his rivals audition to take his place when the new season starts.

Coach Michael Cheika says he will use the final two hit-outs of the summer to finalise his plans for the Super League opener in a fortnight. That means he will unleash five of his Wallabies for the first time against the Blues.

New recruit Michael Hooper, wingers Drew Mitchell and Lachie Turner, lock Kane Douglas and prop Paddy Ryan will all see their first action in Whangarei.

Cheika has indicated that, although he may be a former Wallaby captain and a veteran of two Rugby World Cups, he won't necessarily be pitched in against the Reds even if he is fit.

"Maybe (he'll be back) for the Queensland game but it just depends how the other guys go in his position in the trial matches," he said. "He's not guaranteed a start if he doesn't have a practice match... I think he's at least a week away from (returning to training)."

Cheika says he will give "a certain credit" to his Wallabies players, in terms of selection at the start of the season, but no-one's place was secure.

He said when he comes to put together his side to face the Reds, "It's got to be a best side based out of performances that they've delivered perhaps in the recent past and then in the practice matches in particular.

Meanwhile, Cheika has ruled out making a play for Luke Burgess after the former Wallabies scrumhalf sought an early release from French club Toulouse.

Burgess, who signed for Toulouse following the 2011 Rugby World Cup, wants to return home for family reasons when the French season ends in May.

He has already been linked with a move to the Rebels, but Cheika says though the Waratahs have a spot available following the departure of youngster Sam Lane earlier this week, he has no plans to lure the 37-Test veteran back to the club.

The Waratahs are 5000/1 to win the Super Rugby title and 100/1 to be Australia's top team in the competition.

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