Strong Rebels Side Named To Play Waratahs
by Brendan Bradford –
Coach, Damien Hill has named Gareth Delve, James O’Connor, Nic Henderson and Nic Stirzaker as co-captains for the Rebels’ trial match against the Waratahs this Saturday in Hobart. The near full-strength squad features eleven Rebels debutants and five international players including O’Connor, Nick Phipps and Spring tourists, Mitch Inman and Cadeyrn Neville.
The Rebels will field one side for the first half which will be co-captained by Delve and O’Connor, while another side led by Henderson and Stirzaker will play the second half.
Twenty-two year old O’Connor, who missed much of last season through injury, will start at fly-half while Kurtley Beale – the incumbent Wallabies Number 10 – is scheduled to start at fullback in the first half.
“This is definitely a huge match for me personally,” said O’Connor.
“The reason I decided not to tour for the Wallabies is that I wasn’t 100%. The decision was always geared for me to play this match in Tasmania and I could not be happier with where I am at physically at the moment.
“The most important thing I have accomplished isn’t my physical preparation, but I’ve been able to be part of the team dynamic. From the combinations in the backline, to being able to know how the forwards run their lines, these are the things I take away from this pre-season campaign.
“I am stoked that ‘Hilly’ has given me first crack at 10, and also love the look of our side. It is balanced and the best we could pick, apart from injury.”
Although he will play in the Number 10 jersey, O’Connor will likely spend some time at fullback in the second half in a possible match-up with high-profile Waratahs recruit, Israel Folau.
“If someone had told me I would be playing Rugby Union in Hobart against Israel Folau, I would have told them they were dreaming,” said O’Connor.
“It’s an exciting time for Rugby Union in this country and I am sure Israel will be looking forward to being a part it.”
Beale will travel with the side to Hobart but a decision on his fitness will be made later in the week by the Rebels’ High Performance staff.
“He is desperate to play, and is excited about the opportunity to play with our young backline, but we will make that call on Friday,” said Damien Hill.
Promising young Sydney University play-maker, Angus Roberts, will take over the fly-half duties from O’Connor after halftime while hooker, Shota Horie – who is scheduled to play some of the second half – will move one step closer to being the first Japanese player to play Super Rugby.
New Wallaby recruit Scott Higginbotham won’t play the trial but is expected to be available by the start of the Super Rugby season. The news isn’t so good for New Zealand-born winger Jason Woodward, who could be sidelined for up to six weeks after injuring a tendon in his finger at training.
The Rebels take on the Waratahs at North Hobart Oval on Saturday February 2nd at 5:30pm.
Rebels Side – First Half.
1. Eddie Aholelei 2. Ged Robinson 3. Laurie Weeks 4. Hugh Pyle 5. Luke Jones 6. Tim Davidson 7. Scott Fuglistaller 8. Gareth Delve (C) 9. Nick Phipps 10. James O’Connor (C) 11. Cooper Vuna 12. Rory Sidey 13. Mitch Inman 14. Lachlan Mitchell 15. Kurtley Beale/Alex Rokobaro
1. Nic Henderson (C) 2. Pat Leafa/Shota Horie 3. Paul Alo-Emile 4. Chris Thomson 5. James King 6. Cadeyrn Neville 7. Jarrod Saffy 8. Trent Dyer 9. Nic Stirzaker (C) 10. Angus Roberts 11. Cooper Vuna 12. Lachlan Mitchell 13. Tom English 14. Alex Rokobaro 15. Bryce Hegarty.