Roosters NRL recruit Mark Nawaqanitawase axed by Waratahs, exclusive opinion from Tim Horan, Mils Muliaina

Rugby World Cup winners Tim Horan and Mils Muliaina have supported Darren Coleman’s shock decision to axe Mark Nawaqanitawase from the 1-6 Waratahs.

The athletic Wallabies winger was one of Australia’s best performers last year and will join the NRL’s Sydney Roosters on a big money two year deal from 2025.

But the 23-year-old has struggled to make an impact for a losing NSW side and is yet to score a try after seven rounds of Super Rugby Pacific.

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He has been replaced by Triston Reilly to play the defending champion Crusaders in Sydney on Friday and can’t even crack the bench.

“Triston deserves his chance,” Waratahs coach Coleman said.

“We all saw what he did against the Crusaders last time. He missed out for a couple of weeks there, but he took it in the right way. He went back and worked hard on his game, stayed positive and played really well for Randwick on the weekend in the Shute Shield. His effort areas like kick chase and defence are really strong and I’m looking forward to what he can provide us this weekend.

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“It’s been a big headache in our backline but a good headache to have. This week we have all of our contracted backs available which is unheard of. As a result, we’ve got some good players missing out.”

Wallabies legend Horan said it was a tough, but justifiable, call.

“Mark probably needed a break,” Horan said on Stan Sport’s The Call Up.

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“It just looked like the last couple of matches, he wasn’t as engaged. This time last year he’s running inside of Jake Gordon, outside of Tane Edmed – he’s looking for opportunities.

“And I just thought on Saturday night in Canberra (in a loss to the Brumbies), he stayed on the wing more than what I’ve seen and didn’t go looking for a bit of work. He had a couple of opportunities in the second half, but hardly touched the ball in the first half. So I think he just needs to take a break mentally and physically and then bounce back the following week.

“But Tristan Reilly gets an opportunity. Tristan Reilly was really good with a couple of opportunities he’s had so far this year.”

Reilly, 25, is a former Australian sevens flier who played three NRL games for the Wests Tigers last season before returning to rugby.

“He’s been very active and probably deserves to be out there,” All Blacks great Muliaina said.

“I tend to agree it’s that time of the year when you start to look at your top players and think ‘well, are they starting to plateau?’ And Nawaqanitawase probably has. Reilly is enthusiastic, he wants to look for work.”

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