NSW Waratahs coach Ewen McKenzie claims his side are ahead of schedule in their preparations as they look to improve on their disappointing 13th-place Super 14 finish next season.
The Waratahs have just completed a gruelling seven-week pre-season training programme, and McKenzie believes his squad is further down the track than at this stage in previous campaigns.
McKenzie was especially pleased to have his seven Australia internationals back in the fold earlier than usual.
"It has been an unusual end of the year because we don't usually have the Wallabies back (in December) so having their contribution, it's been a new experience for them," McKenzie said.
"Some of the activities we've done have been traditional activities and they haven't been there before so it's been a great squad experience.
"We had a camp the other week that got everyone on the same page so there's a lot of things that I feel we're ahead of where we normally are."
Powerhouse hooker Adam Freier, a member of the Wallabies' World Cup squad, believes he is in the best physical condition of his career courtesy of the pre-season programme.
Freier took the annual strongman challenge on Thursday, which saw the players tested over six disciplines, and now has his sights firmly set on cementing the Wallabies' number two jersey currently occupied by Reds hooker Stephen Moore.
"Although last (domestic international) season I played every Test I'd definitely like to be wearing a different jersey during the majority of those Tests," he said.
But the Waratahs captain is just as passionate about doing well for Australia as he is about winning the Super 14 competition.
"Personally I think that if we can win (the Super 14 competition) and compete and do very well all that other stuff looks after itself," he added.
"I am very passionate about NSW and very passionate about winning the Super 14 as much as I am about playing for Australia."