The New South Wales Waratahs will have the bulk of their 2009 squad at their disposal for next year's Super 14 competition after re-signing forwards Sekope Kepu, Ben Mowen and Damien Fitzpatrick today. The young trio have been earmarked as critical to NSW's future, all three breaking into the Super 14 scene over the past two years. "These are three really significant re-signings for us," the Waratahs coach Chris Hickey said. "Ben Mowen was one of the most improved players in the competition this year, while Damien Fitzpatrick showed at just 19 years of age that he can handle it in the front row at this level. "Re-signing a prop of Sekope's ability was also extremely important for us. "When Al Baxter, Matt Dunning, Sekope and Adam Freier were all out injured at the same time this year, we were blessed to have guys like Fitzy and Dan Palmer to fill the breach. "That depth in the front row can't be underestimated in the Super 14." Hickey was desperate not to lose too many players over the off-season as the Tahs look to build on a sound 2009 campaign. With the notable exception of Lote Tuqiri, NSW has maintained the majority of their squad. "Keeping a successful core group of players together year on year is really important," Hickey said. "Maintaining a high level of squad retention from a pretty successful team ensures we don't lose a lot of the hard work from 2008 and 2009, and we're hoping a couple of shrewd acquisitions will enable us to progress our game even further. "There's still a couple of vacancies open on the roster and we're doing a lot of work behind the scenes to set ourselves up in the best possible way for 2010."
* PA Sport