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“We went to different schools, he was Newy High, I was Merewether High, so [there would be] a bit of beef there. We both played at the Cambridge Hotel I’m pretty sure, so there’s a few similarities.”

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It will be Johnson-Holmes’s second trip to Newcastle as a professional rugby player and this time he wants to come away with a win. The Waratahs were ambushed by a rampant Sunwolves attack in round seven last year, suffering a 31-29 loss in their first game in the rugby-mad region.

“Newcastle’s got a great community of supporters of all sports, rugby especially, so we want to be able to pay them back,” Johnson-Holmes said.

“We had a great trip last time and we weren’t able to get the job done when we went there so we’ve got some favours to pay back to the Novocastrians.

“I think the Sunwolves had a very good day that day, where everything seemed to be sticking for them.

Full flight: Semisi Masirewa scores one of his two tries for the Sunwolves against the Waratahs last season.

Full flight: Semisi Masirewa scores one of his two tries for the Sunwolves against the Waratahs last season. Credit:Kyodo News

“For us, when things weren’t working for us, they were able to capitalise and we weren’t able to defensively take the ball from them as much as what we would’ve liked, therefore they kept piling on points as a great attacking side will.

“We weren’t able to hold them out and they were able to make our mistakes points, and they chipped away at us … by the end we were chasing our tails a bit and playing as such.”

The Blues are also coming off a round-one loss to the Chiefs and will be stinging after surrendering a 19-5 half-time lead to the Warren Gatland-coached club.

The Auckland side is being coached again this year by Leon MacDonald, with Tana Umaga on defence, Tom Coventry working with the forwards, Ben Afeaki looking after the scrum and former Waratahs No.10 Daniel Halangahu on board as skills and backs coach.

Damaging Blues loose forward Hoskins Sotutu will be a handful for the Waratahs.

Damaging Blues loose forward Hoskins Sotutu will be a handful for the Waratahs. Credit:Getty

They will present a tough test for the Waratahs in all facets of the game, and Johnson-Holmes knows his name could be on a piece of paper somewhere in Afeaki’s set-piece notes. Traditionally a loose-head, he switched to the tight-head side of the scrum in the lead-in to this season and is getting to grips with the highly technical position.

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“I don’t think there’s a lot of footage for them to check out but I think that could work in my favour if they’re underestimating how we’re going to operate as a front row,” Johnson-Holmes said.

“I’ve been pretty happy with how we’ve scrummaged in pre-season. We had good dominance against the Highlanders and good parity against a pretty strong Reds pack.

“That could be the go but we’ll have the tools in our arsenal to be able to offset that and use it to our advantage.”

Georgina Robinson is the chief rugby reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.

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