Jack Maddocks and Ned Hanigan will suspend the game on Friday, which starts at 6.45 p.m., while new signing and former Parramatta Eels runner-up Tepai Moeroa are out of the game due to illness.
The hookers Robbie Abel and Charlie Gamble, No. 7, will get their first opportunities to impress for their new club.
Penney has selected four different pages that will spin within 20 minutes.
Mason, who is the fifth eighth of the reigning Waratahs after meeting the Highlanders in the last round of last season, will start alongside Karmichael Hunt in the middle and Lalakai Foketi in No. 13.
Hunt and Foketi would be expected to be the first choice of Waratahs leading to the first round.
“It’s an exciting opportunity this weekend in Leichhardt,” said Mason. “It’s more exciting for everyone because we’ve been flogged all of the pre-season. Now is the time to incorporate it into a game.” This weekend I will focus on doing my best so that I can play the first round and continue the rest of the season. “
Well-known faces Alex Newsome and Cam Clark were named on the wings, while 19-year-old sensation Nawaqanitawase gets a chance to show the Waratahs believers who may not have seen the boy in action what all the hype is about.
Mark Nawaqanitawase was a member of the Junior Wallabies team last year. Photo credit: Brook Mitchell
As always, Penney will keep his fingers crossed. Given the Waratah’s difficult start to the season, there are no major injuries.
After two encounters against the Kiwi opponents, the Waratahs travel to Melbourne to face the rebels.
Seeing you on round four, NSW could start into the last week of February without winning if they don’t fire from the start.
The Highlanders have appointed a squad of 28 players for the game. The most important news is that Josh Ioane has moved from fifth to third place to take on the new recruit Mitch Hunt.
Both teams will fight for the Sir Henry Braddon Cup and the Highlanders, who have had bragging rights in recent years.
The Waratahs have given more than 50 points or more in their last three attempts against the Highlanders since 2017.
Waratahs (1-15): Tom Robertson, Robbie Abel, Harry Johnson-Holmes, Ryan McCauley, Tom Staniforth, Lachlan Swinton, Charlie Gamble, Jed Holloway, Jake Gordon, Mack Mason, Alex Newsome, Karmichael Hunt, Lalakai Foketi, Cam Clark, Mark Nawaqanitawase.
reserves: Damien Fitzpatrick, Tetera Faulkner, Pat Tafa, Will Harris, Carlo Tizzano, Rory O’Connor, Nick-Champion De Crespigny, Angus Bell, Andrew Tuala, Chris Talakai, James Ramm, Joey Walton, Mitch Short, Will Harrison, Ben Donaldson, Tristan Reilly, Michael McDonald.
Highlands (1-15): Ayden johnstone, nathan vella, josh iosefa-scott, jesse parete, pari pari parkinson, sione misiloi, james lentjes (c), teariki ben-nicholas, kayne hammington, mitch hunt, scott gregory, josh ioane, sio tomkinson, tima faingaanuku, Josh McKay.
reserves: Daniel Lienert-Brown, Sebastian Siataga, Isaac Lachs, Josh Dickson, Zane Kapeli, Dillon Hunt, Marino Mikaele-Tu’u, Folau Fakatava, Bryn Gatland, Jona Nareki, Aleki Morris, Chris Kuridrani, Michael Collins.