SYDNEY (Reuters) - Wallabies Jack Dempsey and Lachlan Swinton have been ruled out of Super Rugby AU action this weekend by foot injuries in a huge blow to the ailing New South Wales Waratahs ahead of their clash against the competition-leading Queensland Reds.
The Waratahs have endured a miserable start to the season after shipping 155 in points four straight defeats, including record pummellings at the hands of the Reds and ACT Brumbies in their first two matches.
The injuries to the loose forwards, two of the few internationals left in the squad after a flood of departures over the last couple of years, has forced an overhaul of the back row for Saturday's match at Sydney's Olympic Stadium.
Lock Hugh Sinclair will start at openside flanker with Carlo Tizzano moving to the blindside and promising youngster Will Harris rushed straight back from injury at number eight.
Rugby league convert Izaia Perese will make his second start at centre after serving a three-match ban for a tip tackle in the 41-7 loss to the Reds in the season-opener.
The Waratahs also lost Wallabies scrumhalf Jake Gordon, the club captain, to a serious foot injury in that match, further weakening an already inexperienced squad for the remainder of the competition.
New South Wales is one of the two heartlands of Australian rugby and the struggles of the Waratahs, Super Rugby champions in 2014, have been the cause of much soul-searching in the game.
Rugby Australia chief executive Andy Marinos told reporters in Sydney on Wednesday that the situation was "obviously a concern for everyone".
"We'll continue to share and help where we can to make sure they get back to where they need to get back to," he said.
"Yes, a big market like this, when they're not performing it will have an impact but at the same time there's a lot of hard work going on behind the scenes."
(Reporting by Nick Mulvenney, editing by Peter Rutherford)