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Waratahs flyhalf Mason capitulates

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Ominous signs of another Australian Rugby scouting failure

The NSW Waratahs are rallying around rookie playmaker Mack Mason after the 24-year-old’s rare start backfired spectacularly on coach Daryl Gibson.

Deputising for Test five-eighth Bernard Foley, who was rested under the Wallabies’ rotation policy, Mason was hooked after 57 minutes of the Waratahs’ humiliating 31-29 Super Rugby loss to the Sunwolves.

With Mason’s confidence seemingly deserting him after a succession of blunders, Gibson said he had no choice but to replace him with the Waratahs fighting to save the game against the competition’s bottom-placed outfit.

The coach was loathe to blame Mason for the shock loss in Newcastle, but will likely think long and hard before picking the under-20 Melbourne Storm NRL player again.

Mason, a product of rugby school Churchie in Brisbane, originally signed with the NRL team Melbourne Storm featuring in their under-20 team after high school. The Queensland Reds moved to lure Mason back to rugby, providing a squad spot in 2016 before the Waratahs snapped him up for 2017 and beyond.

He has been biding his time in Sydney, playing NRC and club rugby but his disappointing re-appearance at Super Rugby won’t be lost on Australian fans waiting for the next generation of Wallaby flyhalves to establish themselves after just one new debutant (Reece Hodge) since 2009.

Gibson is committed to resting all his Wallabies at least twice during the season, meaning Foley will be absent again at some point which could provide Mason another shot.

Kurtley Beale, like he did on Friday night, is the obvious option to cover for Foley, but Waratahs hooker Damien Fitzpatrick said it was important not to give up on Mason.

“We’ve all been there. I’ve had shockers as well when I started,” Fitzpatrick said.

“Mack’s a great player who had a couple of errors. I’m sure he’s going to beat himself up about it as a five-eighth, likewise at hooker when you miss a throw, one of your fundamental skills, you beat yourself up.

“But at the same time we pick ourselves up, your teammates pat you on the back and you get in on Monday and you move on.”

The entire Waratahs squad faces a week of soul searching, with Gibson warning his charges they face more misery against the Blues on Friday in Auckland if they repeat their bumbling display.

“The Sunwolves have been very competitive this year so we knew what we were going to be in for,” Gibson said.

“It’s a real learning opportunity. I’ve seen the best of this team and tonight we didn’t see close to that and so we’ve got to really learn from it.

“If we play at the same intensity that we did last week (in beating the Crusaders), then we’re going to be a good side.

“If we continue to do what we’re doing tonight, then we’ll get what we get.”

Michael Cheika talks to RugbyPass:

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– RugbyPass/AAP

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Ominous signs of another Australian Rugby scouting failure