Waratahs coach Daryl Gibson says the cool head of rookie flyhalf Mack Mason earned him a Super Rugby baptism of fire.
Mason has been confirmed as the Waratahs’ starting 10 for this weekend’s clash, with Bernard Foley ruled out with recurring concussion symptoms.
A former Melbourne Storm academy player, Mason steered the Australia U20s to an historic win over New Zealand last year before the Queensland came south to sign with the Waratahs.
He has leapfrogged some other contenders to be Foley’s understudy this week, with Gibson confident in the youngster, after winger Andrew Kellaway sang his praises on Thursday.
“He’s very cool, calm, takes everything in his stride,” he said.
“That’s the quality I really like in him - he’s certainly not overawed and bossing the game and telling senior pros where they need to be.
“That’s a neat quality to have in someone so young and I think he’s got an excellent young skill set.”
The NSW backline will have a shakeup in the centres as well, with Rob Horne ruled out with a hamstring injury.
Horne is expected to be back for the Waratahs’ trip to Wellington next week, but his absence has returned Israel Folau to outside centre and given former Aussie Sevens star Cam Clark his first starting chance, at fullback.
“Cam’s been one of those guys who's been toiling away in the background, been really impressed with his performances coming off the bench,” he said.
“He’s excellent in the air and very good on the ground in terms of his contact skills, which you need to be in sevens and probably what he’s really got is and excellent evasive game, he’s strong on the carry and certainly won't shy away from the contact.”
Irae Simone comes into the 23 on the bench in the only other change to the matchday squad.
The Waratahs take on the Crusaders on Sunday, kicking off at 4:05pm AEST LIVE on FOX SPORTS and via radio on RUGBY.com.au.
IN: Mack Mason, Irae Simone
OUT: Bernard Foley, Rob Horne
Waratahs team to take on the Crusaders
1 Tom Robertson
2 Tolu Latu
3 Sekope Kepu
4 Dean Mumm
5 Will Skelton
6 Ned Hanigan
7 Michael Hooper ©
8 Jed Holloway
9 Jake Gordon
10 Mack Mason
11 Andrew Kellaway
12 David Horwitz
13 Israel Folau
14 Reece Robinson
15 Cam Clark
16. Damien Fitzpatrick
17. Paddy Ryan
18. David Lolohea
19. David McDuling
20. Michael Wells
21. Nick Phipps
22. Irae Simone
23. Taqele Naiyaravoro