Foley out as Tahs call for Mack-up
It's Mack to the future for the Waratahs on Friday when the franchise prepares for the departure of playmaker Bernard Foley at the end of the season.
While the off-contract Foley has yet to make a firm decision on his future, NSW coach Daryl Gibson is handing back-up five-eighth Mack Mason the starting No. 10 jersey against the Sunwolves in Newcastle.Gibson is handing back-up five-eighth Mack Mason the starting No. 10 jersey
Foley, Adam Ashley-Cooper and Jack Dempsey are being rested for the match under the Wallabies' rotation policy.
Mason, 23, has played just four Super Rugby games for NSW since making his debut in 2017.
But having re-signed with the Tahs until the end the 2020 season, he is the natural replacement should Foley head overseas after the World Cup.
"We knew Bernard indicated that, potentially, this could be his last year," Gibson said. "He could move offshore and we needed someone who was going to be here long-term and we saw that in Mack.
"We're aware (Foley's) contract ends with us and with Australia at the end of this year … I'm not sure what he's going to do. We'll wait to find out."
Mason's long wait for game time has not dented his enthusiasm, Gibson said.
"Someone like Mack Mason, who has been training with real energy and enthusiasm but not really getting an opportunity, I am really pleased for him to be able to give him that this week," Gibson said.
"Through the trial period, Mack played all of those games. It's a good opportunity. We wouldn't be putting him in if we didn't have confidence in him.
"He has been patiently waiting for an opportunity over the last two years, and working away. He gets that on Friday."
NSW leads the Australian conference while the Sunwolves, having been informed last week they will be axed from Super Rugby after next year, are last on the ladder.
This scenario has allowed Gibson to rest some big names.
Skipper Michael Hooper will play, while back-up Will Miller is expected to be fit to return from injury next week against the Blues.
Jed Holloway has failed to recover from a rib injury he sustained in last Saturday's shock win over the Crusaders, pushing Ned Hanigan to lock, while Lachlan Swinton starts at blindside flanker and Michael Wells replaces Dempsey at No. 8.
With Ashley-Cooper rested, Karmichael Hunt will play at outside centre, where he performed strongly against the Sunwolves in round two when NSW snuck home 31-30 in Tokyo.
More than 14,000 fans are expected to be in attendance at Newcastle's McDonald Jones Stadium for the Waratahs first Super Rugby match in the city.