The Waratahs have confirmed their 35-man squad for 2017's Super Rugby season as players officially return to pre-season training this week.
The squad for next year sees 30 out of the 35 players who have been retained, including the return of experienced Waratahs, Sekope Kepu and Damien Fitzpatrick, and 12 who have re-committed to the club this year.
12 players have international Test experience, including Tom Robertson and Tolu Latu who made their Wallabies debuts this year, as well as Paddy Ryan and Taqele Naiyaravoro who have both recently been called back in to the Australian squad. Current Wallabies development players, Andrew Kellaway and Jack Dempsey remain part of the 'Tahs after both re-signing this year.
The team features eight new signings, including promising young fly-half, Mack Mason who has been handed a supplementary squad contract, together with standout NSW Country Eagles representatives, prop, Sam Needs and fly-half, Andrew Deegan, who has been promoted from a development contract.
Waratahs head coach Daryl Gibson said he was looking forward to seeing how the team comes together ahead of what will be another big season of Super Rugby in 2017.
"We have retained a great mix of youth and experience for next season; players who are keen and determined and will no doubt add new energy to the team in 2017," Gibson said.
"You only have to look back at the success of our rookies this year, in both the Super Rugby and NRC, to see the potential of the talent that we have. I am very confident in the abilities of these new players as they will no doubt add to the competition for spots.
"At the same time we have grown our leadership capacity with an emerging set of new leaders to support Michael Hooper and carry the legacy and culture that form the foundations of this club.
"Our players are proud to represent NSW and enjoy the responsibility that comes with pulling on the jersey. We want to continue to use this to create an environment that we want to be part of and for them to take ownership of the team.
"It is pleasing to see the team made up of so much local talent. This is a true reflection of the NSW rugby pathways system, which continues to go from strength to strength as we renew our focus on the grassroots with the recent amalgamation of the community and professional arms of the organisation."
Lock Leon Power, who signed with the Waratahs in August, has been released from the squad to undergo knee surgery after suffering an ACL injury in the Mitre 10 Cup. A replacement lock will be named in due course.
Waratahs 36-man squad
Forwards: Sekope Kepu, Sam Needs (supplementary squad), Tom Robertson, Paddy Ryan, Matt Sandell, Angus Ta’avao, Damien Fitzpatrick, Tolu Latu, Hugh Roach, Ned Hanigan, Ryan McCauley (extended playing squad), Dean Mumm, Will Skelton, Senio Toleafoa (extended playing squad), Jack Dempsey, Jed Holloway, Michael Hooper, Michael Wells, Brad Wilkin
Backs: Jake Gordon (extended playing squad), Matt Lucas, Nick Phipps, Andrew Deegan (supplementary squad), Bernard Foley, Bryce Hegarty, Mack Mason (supplementary squad), Israel Folau, Irae Simone (extended playing squad), Rob Horne, David Horwitz, Cameron Clark, Harry Jones (extended playing squad), Taqele Naiyaravoro, Andrew Kellaway, Reece Robinson