NSW Waratahs coach Daryl Gibson believes the signing of former Melbourne Rebels playmaker Bryce Hegarty adds security and flexibility to his squad should incumbent five-eighth Bernard Foley feel the brunt of back-to-back seasons when he returns from a stint in Japan.
Hegarty, 23, was announced on Thursday as the final piece to the Waratahs' playing roster puzzle for season 2016 as they prepare for a trial match next weekend in Wagga and two more warm-up fixtures in New Zealand against the Chiefs (February 12) and Highlanders (February 19).
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A starting five-eighth at the Rebels, Hegarty has been plying his trade in the Japanese Top League, but admitted he was unhappy in Melbourne.
Hegarty said he was looking forward to taking on the Rebels – should be named for the April 3 fixture – adding that he wanted to "teach them a lesson".
He flew in from Japan on Monday and walked straight into Waratahs training under the watchful eye of new coach Gibson.
Foley played his last game in Japan on the weekend, but is not expected to be available for the Waratahs until the second trial match.
Gibson said Waratahs staff would keep an eye on Foley's workload throughout the season and ideally, he hoped they could create a squad strong enough to be able to let someone like Foley to have a rest during a game if need be.
"[Bryce] is just a good addition; he gives us good depth," Gibson said. "It allows a great deal of flexibility in our backline. We're going to have to manage him [Foley] very well and bearing in mind the Wallabies have 15 Tests at the end of the year. I'd like to get our team to the luxury where we don't have to start him [Foley]. He's had a pretty solid workload through the World Cup and then going straight to Japan where he's played almost all of the games for 80 minutes and so obviously once he gets back we'll assess where he's at."
Asked whether he was concerned about the potential fatigue of back-to-back seasons, Hegarty said he felt he was as mentally and physically fresh as he had been in "five or six years" because of the lower intensity of training in Japan.
"They look after you a little bit ... your training's not as physical," Hegarty said. "You don't do as much during training, so you feel quite fresh in the legs."
Foley was aware the Waratahs had signed Hegarty "a few months ago" and has offered guidance during their time in Japan – maybe a little less after the game in which Hegarty's side beat Foley's in a battle to avoid relegation.
Gibson has a number of positional decisions to make in the coming weeks before the Waratahs' opener against the Reds at home on February 27.
He is toying with the idea of switching Israel Folau to outside centre, Kurtley Beale to fullback and David Horwitz to number 12 from five-eighth – all decisions that are yet to be finalised.
"I want to see what develops in the next three weeks with all of our combinations running and who's really putting their hand up and saying: 'pick me'," Gibson said.
Hegarty, who also has experience at fullback, said it did not bother him where he slotted into a strong Waratahs backline.
"Ten [five-eighth] maybe is the number one position, but 15 [fullback], I wouldn't really mind, [or even] inside centre," Hegarty said. "I want to develop my game, and I believe good things come to people who wait, so I'm really looking forward to the season ahead."