O'Connor benched for last Rebels game

Date published: July 10 2013

Departing Rebels utility back James O'Connor will play off the bench in Friday's clash against the Highlanders in Melbourne.

Departing Rebels utility back James O'Connor will play off the bench in Friday's clash against the Highlanders in Melbourne.

This comes just days after he was he was informed that he would not be offered a contract at the Rebels for 2014.

According to a Rebels press release, O'Connor has been named amongst the replacements in his 20th and final appearance at the franchise, having not trained with the team since being selected by the Wallabies for the British and Irish Lions Series.

He will train for the first time at the Rebels captain's run tomorrow morning, following an injury sustained in the final Test match in Sydney.

In other changes, Cooper Vuna and Angus Roberts return to the starting line-up while Gareth Delve will captain the side in his final match at the franchise, alongside retiring prop Nic Henderson, who will play his 119th Super Rugby match, still without a try.

In his final match as Rebels head coach, Damien Hill – who will be replaced by Tony McGahan – is determined to go out on a high.

“We have had solid a week's preparation for this match,” said Hill.

“We have selected a very strong side to finish what can be our most successful season in our short history.

“James wasn't able to train on Monday and Tuesday which gives him only the captain's run to prepare.

“He has done extremely well to make himself available on the bench. I know this is a match he is very keen to play in.

“In the second half of the season we have showed great resilience, and I am very proud that we were able to beat the Stormers, our first South African opponent, as well as claim the Weary Dunlop Shield by beating the Waratahs in front of our members and Rebel family at AAMI Park.

“It would a fitting way to conclude this season with our first win over an in-form Highlanders side, and for the club to achieve its fifth win of the season.

“As the playing depth evolves, so too has the development of the club's rugby staff.

“Our coaching, management, physio, and physical performance staff have been instrumental in the club's progress and will continue to help mould this young Rebels playing roster, to hopefully one day represent their country.”

Rebels: 15 Angus Roberts, 14 Jason Woodward, 13 Tom English, 12 Rory Sidey, 11 Cooper Vuna, 10 Bryce Hegarty, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Gareth Delve (c), 7 Scott Fuglistaller, 6 Jarrod Saffy, 5 Cadeyrn Neville, 4 Hugh Pyle, 3 Laurie Weeks, 2 Ged Robinson, 1 Nic Henderson.
Replacements: 16 Shota Horie, 17 Paul Alo-Emile, 18 Luke Jones, 19 Jordy Reid, 20 Nic Stirzaker, 21 James O'Connor, 22 Kimami Sitauti.

Date: Friday, July 12
Venue: AAMI Park, Melbourne
Kick-off: 19.40 (09.40 GMT)
Referee: Andrew Lees (Australia)