He helped engineer Australia’s first U20s win over New Zealand last year and now rookie flyhalf Mack Mason is shaping as a Super Rugby bolter.
Mason trained at starting flyhalf with Bernard Foley in a non-contact bib running with the reserves, still in doubt for Sunday’s match with the Crusaders.
While Foley could yet be named to play against the Crusaders, the recurrence of concussion symptoms after the win over the Rebels, he is far from in the clear.
While the team will not officially be named until Friday, outside back Andrew Kellaway appeared to let the cat out of the bag on Thursday when asked whether criticism that the Waratahs struggled to win without Foley was fair.
“Bernard’s obviously Bernard - he’s a great player and he was great for us last weekend but Mack Mason’s a phenomenal young footballer and he’s going to be good this weekend,” he said.
You say pressure but I don’t think so, I think it’ll be the opposite. Everyone, by the sound of things, might have already written him off, so how good’s that?
“(He’s) an underdog and like I said he’s a great footballer. It’s going to be awesome to see everyone eating their words.”
“He’s from very very rural Queensland but he’s tough as nails and very confident, so he’s going to be awesome.”
Queenslander Mason, a former Melbourne Storm U20s player, kicked the winning goal in Australia’s historic U20s win over New Zealand on the Gold Coast last year, an experience that could come in handy against the undefeated Crusaders.
He went on to play a crucial role in their World Cup campaign, before signing to move south of the border ahead of the 2017 season.
“Very Kurtley Beale-esque with that white headgear on, he’s good. I’m really excited to see him have a crack this weekend
“It’s a special thing to beat them (New Zealand), you’ve got to know what it feels like and that always helps.”
Until that point, it seemed that David Horwitz could shift into 10, a move that Kellaway said could also be a successful one, with his history in the playmaking spot at club level.
“I think I’ve only ever really played with Dave at 10 for the most part, I only know him as a 10, that’s his go, so I think he’ll be fine there.”
Defence coach Nathan Grey said Foley's return process was 'out of our control', as coaches.
“That process is day-by-day. You go about ticking off all the protocols and whatnot and he’s going to be very solid in terms of sticking to those this week and this week it’s exactly the same,” he said.
“Obviously, those symptoms came back after the game and from a coaching perspective, it’s a little bit out of our control.”
There could be some other changes in the backline to face the Crusaders, with centre Rob Horne also under an injury cloud.
Horne has not trained this week, with a hamstring injury, and if he were ruled out, Israel Folau would likely move back into 13 with Sevens star Cam Clark at fullback.
The Waratahs take on the Crusaders at 4:05pm AEST on Sunday afternoon, LIVE on FOX SPORTS and via radio on RUGBY.com.au.