Rebels name James O'Connor at No.10
March 5, 2013
James O'Connor was the obvious selection to replace Kurtley Beale © Getty Images
Wallabies star James O'Connor will shoulder a double dose of responsibility for Melbourne Rebels in Friday night's Super Rugby clash with Queensland Reds.
With regular skipper Gareth Delve missing a second straight match due to a shoulder problem, the 22-year-old O'Connor will again captain the side. And this time he will be doing it from the thick of the action at fly-half, having been shifted from fullback to replace incumbent Australian No.10 Kurtley Beale, who broke his left hand in last week's loss to the Waratahs.
O'Connor is set to square off against Quade Cooper, another player with serious designs on the starting fly-half position for the Wallabies in the upcoming Tests against the British and Irish Lions.
Rebels coach Damien Hill has also handed a Super Rugby debut to Angus Roberts, with the former Sydney University player to start at fullback against the Reds at AAMI Park. Roberts, 22, grew up in the NSW country town of Gunnedah before honing his skills at schoolboy level with noted Sydney rugby nursery St Ignatius.
"It's obviously bad for Kurtley," said Roberts, in the first year of a two-season contract with the Rebels. "It's pretty hard to replace someone of that quality, but hopefully I can do my job at the back."
Roberts started out in rugby as a scrum-half and spent time at fly-half before playing all of last season in the Sydney competition at fullback, scoring a try in the Shute Shield final.
"I've been like a sponge and soaked a lot of things up here," Roberts said. "The Reds have got some world-class players in their backline with Digby (Ioane), Ben Tapuai and Quade - so it's a good opportunity to come up against some of the best players in the world and see how I fare."
South Australian-born Alex Rokobaro returns to the starting team on the wing, with Rory Sidey dropping to the bench.
Rebels: Angus Roberts; Richard Kingi, Mitch Inman, Lachlan Mitchell, Alex Rokobaro; James O'Connor (captain), Nick Phipps; Scott Higginbotham, Scott Fuglistaller, Luke Jones; Cadeyrn Neville, Hugh Phyle; Laurie Weekes, Ged Robinson, Nic Henderson Replacements: Shota Horie, Paul Alo-Emile, Reid, Jarrod Saffy, Nic Stirzaker, Rory Sidey, Tom English.
The controversial tackling technique will be in full swing in Dublin on Sunday, writes Conor O'Shea, and could be a decisive factor for Ireland
"This team deserves to be recognised as the greatest of all time." Huw Richards looks at Gareth Edwards' final match for Wales
The two leading contenders for the best modern open-side flanker go head to head in Paris on Saturday. John Taylor assesses the tale of the tape