As the Waratahs continue to build their list ahead of 2024, one of the most experienced rugby minds in Australia has stepped away from the game, with general manager and scrum coach Andrew Blades leaving the Super Rugby franchise.
The Roar can reveal the former World Cup-winning Wallaby, who served as an assistant coach under Eddie Jones, Robbie Deans and Ewen McKenzie, left the franchise earlier in the month.
Blades, 56, was one of Darren Coleman’s first appointments in August, 2021.
It’s believed the 1999 World Cup winner will largely step away from rugby and explore other business opportunities. Although, whether he does some consulting work at the scrum remains a possibility.
Who replaces him in the role remains to be seen, but Coleman is likely to pick up the phone and try and convince former Wallaby Adam Freier, who has built a strong reputation as a general manager, to return from the United States.
But it’s a crucial role, with every governing body under pressure to ensure they retain and develop the best talent coming through.
Meanwhile, the Waratahs will welcome several players to the franchise with halfback Jack Grant set to return from overseas to replace the Brumbies-bound Harrison Goddard.
Former England under-20s prop Hayden Thomson-Stringer, who played alongside Maro Itoje at the junior ranks, has also signed with the Waratahs.
The 28-year-old, who spent years at Saracens and Brive while also being loaned to a number of clubs, including La Rochelle, returns to Sydney having enjoyed a short stint at Manly Marlins in the Shute Shield.
Former Sydney Roosters contracted winger Vuate Karawalevu, who arrived at Easts from Suva last year and spent time playing for their feeder club North Sydney, has also joined.
The 22-year-old recently joined West Harbour after news filtered out that he had joined the Waratahs.
The 193cm, 99kg is a specimen that will excite Coleman.
Junior Wallabies back-rower Ned Slack-Smith has also joined the Waratahs from the Western Force.
A Barker product, the Slack-Smith started in the Junior Wallabies’ 57-33 win over Wales to finish fifth at the under-20s world championship. The flanker scored in the 76th minute.