Mack Mason with the ball playing for Queensland Country during round five of the last year's NRC.
Mack Mason with the ball playing for Queensland Country during round five of the last year's NRC. Matt King

Teammate backs Waratahs rookie to handle pressure

A MELBOURNE Storm junior from Queensland is set to be given the keys to the NSW backline, with rookie playmaker Mack Mason in line to make his Super Rugby debut this weekend against the Crusaders.

Mason will start at No.10 if Bernard Foley fails to overcome his recurring concussion issues.

The Waratahs will finalise their squad on Friday afternoon after assessing Foley's health, but winger Andrew Kellaway all but confirmed 20-year-old Mason would be steering the side against the undefeated competition leaders.

"Bernard's obviously a great player and he was great for us last week, but Mack Mason's a phenomenal young footballer and he's going to be good this weekend," Kellaway said.

There will be enormous pressure on Mason but Kellaway has great faith in the youngster.

"You say pressure, but I think it's probably the opposite. Everyone by the sound of things might have already written him off, so how good's that?" Kellaway said.

"He's an underdog and a great footballer so it's going to be awesome to see everyone eating their words."

Mason was part of the Storm's under-20 side and would fill in at halfback for the first-grade side at training when Cooper Cronk was out of action.

He switched back to union, the game he grew up playing, and was a star for Queensland's under 20s last year before the Tahs signed him to a supplementary contract this season.

Foley missed the first four games with concussion symptoms, replaced by Bryce Hegarty, but returned last Friday to inspire NSW's incredible comeback victory over Melbourne.

However, the Wallabies star again experienced concussion-related symptoms after the match and is unlikely to be risked on Sunday at Allianz Stadium.

Most Waratahs fans would struggle to pick Mason in a line-up.

"He's from very, very rural Queensland so he's a quiet little thing, but he's tough as nails and very confident so it's going to be awesome," Kellaway said.

"Look, I'm sure he's going to get some traffic (run at him) but he's a tough kid. I'm sure he's up for it."

Centre Rob Horne is also in doubt with a hamstring injury, which could cause another major reshuffle to the Tahs backline just a week after coach Daryl Gibson changed all but winger Reece Robinson from their starting positions in the previous match against the Brumbies.

The next two games against the Crusaders on Sunday followed by the Hurricanes in Wellington the following Friday will have huge ramifications for NSW, which is second in the Australian conference but 12th overall.

News Corp Australia

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