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Super Rugby 2015: Fixtures, Live Stream, TV Info and Preview Ahead of Round 1

Tom Sunderland@@TomSunderland_Featured ColumnistFebruary 11, 2015

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 28:  Waratahs captain Dave Dennis poses during the Super Rugby 2015 season launch at Sydney Opera House on January 28, 2015 in Sydney, Australia.  (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)
Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images

Super Rugby makes a triumphant return to the slate this weekend, with the Waratahs looking to get their title defence up and running against Australian foes Western Force on Sunday.

It's been a long wait for the southern hemisphere to welcome back its club competition and after a lengthy period of international rugby taking the spotlight, franchise play is set to fill our calendars once again.

A lengthy 2015 season lies ahead, with stars from Australia, New Zealand and South Africa all hoping to impress in time for the World Cup, but Round 1 is the first chance to soar.

Read on for discussion of this weekend's key storylines and a breakdown of all the vital viewing information.

2015 Super Rugby: Week 1 Schedule
DateTimeFixtureLive StreamTV Info
Friday, Feb. 136:35 a.m. GMT/1:35 a.m. ETCrusaders vs. RebelsSky Go (UK), SuperSport stream (SA)Sky Sports 1 (UK), SuperSport 1 (SA)
Friday, Feb. 138:40 a.m. GMT/3:40 a.m. ETBrumbies vs. RedsSky Go (UK), SuperSport stream (SA)Sky Sports 1 (UK), SuperSport 1 (SA)
Friday, Feb. 135:10 p.m. GMT/12:10 p.m. ETLions vs. HurricanesSky Go (UK), SuperSport stream (SA)Sky Sports 4 (UK), SuperSport 1 (SA)
Saturday, Feb. 146:35 a.m. GMT/1:35 a.m. ETBlues vs. ChiefsSky Go (UK), SuperSport stream (SA)Sky Sports 3 (UK), SuperSport 1 (SA)
Saturday, Feb. 143:05 p.m. GMT/10:05 a.m. ETSharks vs. CheetahsSky Go (UK), SuperSport stream (SA)Sky Sports 1 (UK), SuperSport 1 (SA)
Saturday, Feb. 145:10 p.m. GMT/12:10 p.m. ETBulls vs. StormersSky Go (UK), SuperSport stream (SA)Sky Sports 3 (UK), SuperSport 1 (SA)
Sunday, Feb. 155:05 a.m. GMT/12:05 a.m. ETWaratahs vs. Western ForceSky Go (UK), SuperSport stream (SA)Sky Sports 3 (UK), SuperSport 1 (SA)
SuperXV.com

All matches broadcast on Sky Sports will be available to stream on the Sky Go app for viewers in the United Kingdom. SuperSport provides a streaming service for select viewers in the southern hemisphere.

Key Headlines

Waratahs Going Against the Force

Michael Cheika will officially begin his juggling act as head coach of reigning Super Rugby champions the Waratahs and the Australian national team this year, with few tacticians shouldering more responsibility than him.

Making his way to Sydney's ANZ Stadium this Sunday is a familiar face, with former Tahs coach and current Western Force helmsman Michael Foley quoted by the Sydney Morning Herald's Rupert Guinness on his return to New South Wales:

You'd love to win the first game of the season. We've never done that. That would be a novel thing," Foley said of a first-up win against the Super Rugby champions. But at the same time, if you don't, you have to accept that it is one game. If you don't win it there are 15 more games and we put that in perspective last year.

We certainly didn't play well [in last season's 43-21 defeat]. The Waratahs went on to be champions. We didn't realise that at the time, but [we] faced a very good side first up, didn't play very good, then lost our first game at home and then came out and put five games together.

Every team that goes to Sydney this year knows they are playing the champions and the Waratahs have been explicit in their understanding of that [challenge to them]. So it just gives a chance to go there and have a good crack and that's what we will do.

Foley brought this Western Force team within inches of a playoff place last year and there would be no better signal of his intentions to improve once more than to beat the defending champions in Week 1.

So faithful is the franchise in the effect Foley has had on this team that he was recently rewarded with a new two-year deal in Perth, per ESPN Scrum:

ESPN Scrum @espnscrum

Michael Foley rewarded for @westernforce improvements - he's re-signed through to end of 2017. http://t.co/FzBPWADg4a

However, if the Waratahs have gone about their off-season preparations in the right manner, they promise to be contenders once again, with their back line possessing some monstrous potency.

The connection between Bernard Foley and Kurtley Beale in particular will be one the Western Force need to limit, but it's a task in which few teams managed to succeed in 2014.

Sonny Bill Williams is Back

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - FEBRUARY 06:  Sonny Bill Williams of the Chiefs watches on from the bench during the Super Rugby trial match between the Waratahs and Chiefs at Campbelltown Sports Stadium on February 6, 2015 in Sydney, Australia.  (Photo by Mark Kolbe
Mark Kolbe/Getty Images

It's a tad indulgent to glorify one player in particular when so many superstars of the sport will announce their Super Rugby comebacks this weekend, but then Sonny Bill Williams courts more excitement than most.

The New Zealand international has racked up international minutes since making his return from the National Rugby League and Saturday's trip to face the Blues in Auckland will mark his official return.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - FEBRUARY 06:  Sonny Bill Williams of the Chiefs gets a kick away as he is tackled during the Super Rugby trial match between the Waratahs and Chiefs at Campbelltown Sports Stadium on February 6, 2015 in Sydney, Australia.  (Photo by Ma
Mark Kolbe/Getty Images

The Chiefs behemoth recently featured in a 38-36 trial defeat to the Waratahs where he came up against fellow league convert Israel Folau as part of the losing party.

However, in the build-up to the fixture, Wallabies ace Folau spoke highly of Williams as influencing his own decision to trade codes, per Jamie Pandaram of The Daily Telegraph (h/t Fox Sports):

One thing I can take out of that situation, looking at Sonny when he first left, he was doing what was best for him and he didn’t really worry about the public opinion was. That’s what I went through as well. I am sure he has come out as a stronger, better person.

It has definitely helped me, the years that I spent at the [GWS] Giants, it was a great experience both on and off the field. At that stage when Sonny first switched over it was exciting not just for the fans but other professional athletes who wanted to see how his progress was going; I was one of them.

Williams has set a new tone for what can be achieved by players wishing to peruse their interests in other trades, but the Chiefs now have him firmly back under their command, much to the Blues' dismay.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - FEBRUARY 06:  Sonny Bill Williams of the Chiefs is tackled during the Super Rugby trial match between the Waratahs and Chiefs at Campbelltown Sports Stadium on February 6, 2015 in Sydney, Australia.  (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)
Mark Kolbe/Getty Images

Last month, the Chiefs beat the Blues 41-20 in their first pre-season trial, but Williams will be present this time as the 2012 and 2013 Super Rugby champions hope for a bright start in Auckland.

The Blues finished last season at the base of the New Zealand conference while Dave Rennie led the Chiefs to a playoff appearance, since extending his contract by another two years, per the official Super Rugby Twitter account:

Super Rugby @SuperRugby

Chiefs head coach, Dave Rennie, has extended his contract with the dual #SuperRugby champions http://t.co/4fJljQcT85 http://t.co/3rVXCdn7al

Having a weapon of Williams' quality once more is a terrific boost for the team, and with a World Cup looming, one can guarantee the former Toulon maestro will be at his most motivated to impress.

The Blues will hope their work in recent months has been enough to improve their prospects ahead of the new season, but Williams should lead the Chiefs to victory in what looks a mismatched meeting of New Zealand's giants.

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