Waratahs coach Daryl Gibson has backed his players to step up after an off-season of change.
Gibson has taking over the head coaching role from Michael Cheika, to whom he was an assistant before Cheika was offered the national job.
The former Waratahs attack coach said nothing would change on the field, despite the personnel changes.
“We’re committed to being a ball in hand team, that’s the way we’re choosing to win rugby and it’s the way our people have come to see us play and want us to play,” he said.
“What we have done is been given a remarkable blueprint of how to be successful, what a good team does and we won’t be changing anything around that.”
NSW has lost a handful of its most experienced players, with veterans Adam Ashley-Cooper and Sekope Kepu beginning deals in France, while number eight Wycliff Palu has gone to Japan.
Gibson said the departure of those players gave the next generation a chance to step up and World Cup players like Bernard Foley, Kurtley Beale and Rob Horne would play key roles in that, while 23-year-old Michael Hooper has already served as captain.
“Obviously there’s been a big change off the top,” he said.
“What that’s allowed is a number of our younger guys to come through the system.
“They’ve been developed for a long time and it’s their opportunity to really stake a claim.
“What I will be looking for is the middle tier of our team - Bernard Foley, Kurtley Beale, Rob Horne - a number of guys who are 26-27 years of age which really is their time to stand up and lead the team.”
Beale is one who has transformed immensely in a year, Gibson said, and was keen for a greater leadership role.
“He’s really matured and he’s really growing up and really wanting to be a bigger part of the team leadership wise and really give our younger guys plenty of direction,” he said.
“I think he’s really growing up. He’s realised that and it’s really exciting when you see a person go through that sort of transformation.”
Kepu’s loss might yet be the one felt most keenly, though Gibson said new recruit Angus Ta’avao and Paddy Ryan would be able to fill the void.
Three of their World Cup campaigners will have their fitness managed over the off-season with injuries sustained in the tournament.
Fullback Israel Folau underwent ankle surgery this week, while lock Will Skelton had a pectoral injury that saw him sent home early.
Rob Horne opted against surgery for a shoulder complaint and Gibson said they would take a conservative approach to his pre-season program.
The Waratahs Wallabies contingent will return to full training in January.