Waratahs eye league convert Lousi to replace lost lock

By Nick Mulvenney

SYDNEY, Feb 10 (Reuters) - New South Wales Waratahs coach Michael Cheika has targeted rugby league convert Sam Lousi as the long-term replacement for lock Kane Douglas, the one significant departure from the squad that won last year's Super Rugby title.

The work done by the hulking second row trio of Springbok Jacques Potgieter, Will Skelton and Douglas played a large part in building a solid platform for the running game that took the Waratahs to their first championship in August.

The departure of Douglas for Ireland was a blow not only for the Waratahs but also for the Wallabies, who Cheika will guide into the World Cup this year as well as leading the Super Rugby title defence.

Cheika also has versatile skipper Dave Dennis returning from injury for the new season but thinks his new recruit Lousi -- a 198cm-tall, 120kg New Zealander -- is better suited to fill Douglas's boots.

"I think that Kane's a bigger, heavier piece of equipment than Dave. Dave's always scrabbling for an extra kilo here or there so I think probably he's at his max," Cheika told reporters on Tuesday.

"I think the guy we're looking to replace Kane longer term this year is Sam, a tighthead lock who's done well in his first couple of games of rugby and he's improving his workrate and understanding the game a bit more.

"That might not happen straight away, may take a bit of time, but we knew that when we brought him in so we'll be patient with that process."

Cheika expects to have a full squad to select from for the season-opener against Western Force at Sydney Football Stadium on Sunday.

The 47-year-old said there will be some variation in the way the team plays but the same principles that won them the title last year would remain -- physicality up front and running football in the backline.

Cheika said a hunger to retain the title was less important than having the focus to do the simple things week-in, week-out throughout the season.

"Everybody is hungry to win the title otherwise you might as well not turn up," he said.

"What we've got to do is make sure we've got something extra. That comes down to just zeroing in on doing this job, this week ... the end game is just a consequence of what we do on Sunday.

"There's been a lot of talk about other things but I want to make sure the focus is squarely on the rugby, not just the result but the style of rugby we play is very important." (Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)

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