Will Harrison takes Aaron Cruden encouragement on board

Some words of support from All Blacks playmaker Aaron Cruden have Waratahs fly-half Will Harrison itching for a return to action after his solid start to Super Rugby was halted by the coronavirus pandemic.

Harrison continues to abide by social distancing restrictions in Sydney, the 20-year-old living at home with his parents, brother and younger sister who is doing her best to study the Higher School Certificate.

The full house has Harrison contributing in the kitchen -- he was due to cook salmon for dinner on Thursday night -- and helping out his parents wherever possible. But he is also taking every opportunity to hone his passing and kicking skills.

The home gym is getting a workout, too.

"We're just maintaining our running and our fitness loads and obviously I'm a smaller guy, so I've been pushing it in the gym a bit so I can put on more size and throw my body around a bit more at Super Rugby level," Harrison told ESPN.

"I've been sitting around that 82-84 kilograms when playing and now I'm up to 86. I feel pretty good at 86, I think that's my [playing] weight. I'm pretty comfortable where I am now, it's just putting on that lean mass.

"But I've just been working on my skills, it's been a really good opportunity for me to work on my kicking and my passing, so I've just been doing that at home with my brother. And every opportunity I get I go down to the park and have a few shots at goal."

Harrison was one of a number of young Australian players to catch the eye before the COVID-19 pandemic brought Super Rugby to a halt after Round 7.

His game against the Chiefs, in particular, belied his lack of experience as he stood tall in a Waratahs team that capitulated after halftime to lose by 37 points.

Chiefs coach Warren Gatland later paid tribute to the young Waratahs No. 10 while Harrison himself revealed Cruden had approached him after fulltime with some valuable words of encouragement.

"He just came up to me and had a yarn after the game, he said I went well and I was a bit star struck because he is a classy footballer and he has done a lot in the game," Harrison told ESPN.

"He just said you're going to go on to bigger and better things, and I was just so shocked that he came up and spoke to me because he's a legend, he's a good fella and a great opponent to play against."

After a promising debut against the Crusaders, Harrison felt his next two games, against the Rebels and Blues, were poor.

But he is thankful he was afforded the chance to redeem himself and felt like he was really starting to find his feet even though the Waratahs slumped to a 1-5 record with another heavy defeat, this time by the Brumbies.

"Physicality, definitely, is a level up. Every tackle's pretty brutal," Harrison said when asked what he'd taken from his Super Rugby introduction.

"But it's also the decision-making. You play against guys like Richie Mo'unga and Aaron Cruden and Matt To'omua, those sort of players who are really smart footballers and make really smart decisions who can change a game up. And that's what I've learned really early on is just, being a five-eighth, really trying to make those crucial decisions. And game on game, I've just tried to improve.

"I had a nice start against the Crusaders, obviously we didn't get the result, but I felt like I had a good debut there. And then I went through a bit of a lull, played some wet weather footy, played some sh***y footy to be honest, against the Blues and the Rebels.

"Then we had the bye and I settled back into that three-match run from the Lions through to the Chiefs and finishing up with the Brumbies, I felt like I was building my game and just settling into Super Rugby really nicely. So it's a shame that it all ended because I felt like I was finding my feet."

The Waratahs certainly have some problems, both on and off the field, but the franchise is also suffering as part of a wider issue that has hit Super Rugby in recent years.

The current pause in play means those problems can at last be confronted in isolation, with SANZAAR and its member unions now reviewing just how the competition should return or if it may have in fact run its course.

In Australia, there has been a growing push for a trans-Tasman competition for some time and while that has long been resisted by New Zealand, it may be that the travel restrictions brought on by the coronavirus pandemic force New Zealand Rugby's hand.

Wallabies veteran Matt To'omua added his weight to for a more locally-based Super Rugby competition earlier this week, after Rugby Union Players Association president Damien Fitzpatrick last week had indicated the wider playing group were in favour of a competition review.

But what about those youngsters who are yet to experience the joys of touring, the kind of experiences some older players perhaps take for granted towards the end of their careers?

"I was pretty fuming to be honest, it was one week away from our South Africa tour and I was looking forward to it," Harrison told ESPN. "We were going to Durban and Cape Town where there is really good surf, so I was a bit gutted we weren't going on that trip, and then we had Japan coming up [as well].

"So as a young fella, you like to get around, do a bit of travel while you can; but I feel whatever [competition structure] is going to be best for rugby, I'll back whatever decision they make.

"If you play that trans-Tasman comp, you're going to play those Kiwi teams a few more times than you do in a Super Rugby comp, which is not a bad thing; they're great footballers over there and I certainly have learned a lot playing against their teams over the last couple of years, whether it's schoolboys or 20s and now Super Rugby, it's a good little rivalry and you always get up for those sorts of games."

Harrison said he was however avoiding the wider recent turmoil in Australian rugby, which saw Raelene Castle step down as chief executive last week.

"I don't buy in to that sort of stuff, I'm just worried about my own game and my team leading up to this next competition," he told ESPN.

"We've got to figure out what best suits us, what's the best fit and what changes we're going to make individually and as a squad to really change our ways in how we were playing.

"The Waratahs [shouldn't be] a team that get 40 points put on them weekly. So I guess I'm not reading into the RA stuff too much, I'm more focusing on myself and obviously the Waratahs."

And it's not like it had been all bad news for Australia's franchises before the suspension either. The Brumbies and Rebels had both registered impressive wins in New Zealand while the Reds should have followed suit after blowing a golden opportunity to upset the Crusaders, only to then turn on the style to wallop the Bulls a week later.

Harrison's former Australia Under 20s teammates were key contributors in those wins, and there may yet be a chance to link up with them once more down the road.

"That that was a pretty special team I was a part of last year in the 20s," Harrison said. "You had guys like Harry Wilson, who has absolutely killed Super Rugby; you've got Noah Lolesio who is doing good things down at the Brumbies; Isaac Lucas; Fraser McReight; they're a good bunch of fellas not just good footballers. So it excites that I might have another opportunity to play with those sorts of boys again.

"And I've heard good things about Dave Rennie. I spoke to Aaron Cruden after our Chiefs game, and he just said he's a really good coach. He had a lot to do with him at the Chiefs when they were successful."