The Waratahs have all but finalised their 2017 squad, with the announcement of a 35-man playing roster on Tuesday.
NSW has one spot open on its squad, after releasing lock Leon Power for knee surgery, but have locked 35 players down.
Eight of them are new to the squad, including Aussie Sevens star Cam Clark and Queensland U20s playmaker Mack Mason, who helped the national U20s to a win over New Zealand in May.
Three NRC players have been added to the contracted list in prop Sam Needs, hooker Damien Fitzpatrick and the competition’s player of the year Irae Simone, while NSW Country Eagles’ Andrew Deegan has been upgraded from a development contract.
Next year’s squad will miss plenty of star power, with Kurtley Beale, Dave Dennis, Tatafu Polota-Nau and the franchise’s most capped player, Benn Robinson, all absent from the 2017 roster.
The battle for the starting hooker spot will be intense, with Polota-Nau moving cross-country to join the Force and Tolu Latu’s recent NRC form earned him a Wallabies debut.
Latu played minimal matches for the Waratahs in 2016, because of suspension, injury and the form of Hugh Roach, who will not be keen to cough up the starting position.
Clark looks set to start as a fullback contender, though has indicated a long-term desire to switch to the midfield, while Israel Folau’s midfield stint looks set to become more permanent, with the Test fullback included among the midfield players.
2017 NSW Waratahs
In: Sekope Kepu (Bordeaux), Sam Needs (NSW Country Eagles), Damien Fitzpatrick (France/Sydney Rays), Michael Wells (Brumbies), Mack Mason (QLD U20s), Irae Simone (Sydney Rays), Cam Clark (Aussie Sevens), Andrew Deegan (upgraded from development squad)
Out: Kurtley Beale (Wasps), Matt Carraro (Toulon), Dave Dennis (exeter), Zac Guildford, Sam Lousi (Hurricanes), Wycliff Palu (Toyota Verblitz), Tatafu Polota-Nau (Force), Benn Robinson (retired), Jim Stewart, Jeremy Tilse
Sekope Kepu, Sam Needs, Tom Robertson, Paddy Ryan,, Matt Sandell, Angus Ta’avao,
Damien Fitzpatrick, Tolu Latu, Hugh Roach
Ned Hanigan, Ryan McCauley, Dean Mumm, Will Skelton, Senio Toleafoa, One to be announced
Jack Dempsey, Jed Holloway, Michael Hooper, Michael Wells, Brad Wilkin
Jake Gordon, Matt Lucas, Nick Phipps
Andrew Deegan, Bernard Foley, Bryce Hegarty, Mack Mason
Israel Folau, Irae Simone, Rob Horne, David Horwitz
Cameron Clark, Harry Jones, Taqele Naiyaravoro, Andrew Kellaway, Reece Robinson
The Waratahs kick off their 2017 season against the Force at Allianz Stadium, membership available at here, at www.waratahs.com.au