INVERCARGILL: Waratahs forward coach Michael Foley has conceded that a lack of depth in NSW’s front row stocks could be exposed against the Highlanders tonight. But Foley also said the encounter would be an opportunity for the new faces in NSW’s engine room – starting prop Dan Palmer and reserve Jeremy Tilse – to prove otherwise.The Waratahs are without Wallabies props Benn Robinson (arm injury) and Sekope Kepu (calf). Palmer takes the loose-head No.1 spot alongside hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau and tight-head Al Baxter.While Palmer has only 10 Super caps, Tilse has earned just two in five years with NSW.But Foley backed the pair: ”I have confidence in these guys, and I don’t say that lightly. There will be challenges. This weekend is going to be a massive challenge.”Palmer, 21, had all the makings of a world class prop, said Foley. He said that by being tested in the unaccustomed role of loose-head against Highlanders tight-head Clint Newland, who weighs 130 kilograms, Palmer’s development will take a huge leap forward.”He has served a good apprenticeship. He has worked really hard at being a two-sided prop,” Foley said of Palmer.Tilse, 24, who has been on NSW’s books since 2006 and is their fifth prop, has had his progress delayed by his background and the fact that three of the four props ahead of him are Wallabies. ”Tilsey is a guy who converted from second row at school,” Foley said. ”You can convert someone who has a short leverage quickly, but someone with long levers takes a bit of time.”That late conversion – four or five years now – if you said to somebody: ‘I am going to give you four years of opportunity to play at front row and you are going to have to go out there and prove it at a provincial level …’ That is a big ask.”Tilsey is on the verge. But he has also had quite a few decent props in front of him. He has three Wallabies, and up to now there have even been four, with Matt Dunning [now at the Force], Al Baxter, Sekope Kepu and Benn Robinson.”
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