NSW Waratahs prodigal son Kurtley Beale is set to make his comeback from shoulder surgery in his team's first trial against his former club.
Gifted back Beale has returned to Sydney after two years with the Melbourne Rebels, against whom the Waratahs have their first pre-season hitout on February 1 in Albury.
The Wallaby star had a 2013 to forget, having disciplinary problems at Melbourne, spending time in rehab for alcohol-related issues and missing the second half of the season due to a shoulder reconstruction.
While other Wallabies including Adam Ashley-Cooper, Michael Hooper and Israel Folau are unlikely to play in the opening trial after only returning to NSW training last week, Beale will definitely play according to assistant coach Daryl Gibson.
"Kurtley has come through the pre-season very well. I've been impressed with him," Gibson said.
"He's steadily got better and better and I think, as the confidence has grown with the shoulder, he's really getting stuck into the contact now.
"He's very fit. He's in very good shape."
Beale is likely to battle with Bernard Foley for the five-eighth spot, with Gibson stressing the Waratahs are unlikely to move Folau from fullback.
"Israel Folau has had such a stellar year at fullback and, in my opinion, he's one of the best fullbacks in the world and we'd be loath to shift him from that position," Gibson said.
He said former Reds utility back Jono Lance was being primarily looked at as an inside centre.
"We think along with Rob Horne, we've got two blokes who are contrasting different inside centres and that will serve us well for the type of games we want to play," Gibson said.
Lance was happy to be thought of as a centre.
"I played a lot at fullback in the Reds and that's something that I enjoyed doing, but I see myself as more of a centre," Lance said.
"You get your hands on the ball a bit more often, so that role for me coming down here is something I want to take with both hands."
Gibson said the Waratahs lacked a left-footed kicker which made tactical kicking a bit more difficult.