Rookie at 10 for Rebels
Rebels rookie Bryce Hegarty will make his run on debut at fly-half in Friday's clash against the Stormers in Melbourne.
Hegarty, who spent three seasons with the Brisbane Broncos' U20 side, is one of four changes to the Rebels starting line-up, with the added inclusions of Jordy Reid and Super Rugby debutant Kimami Sitauti in a 5-2 forwards/backs split on the replacements bench.
Rebels coach, Damien Hill, said the changes are positive ones, and a testament to the depth of his young playing roster.
"The past four matches have provided some positive outcomes for this young Rebels side," explained Hill
"We saw last week the depth of the Rebels squad tested with injuries to James O'Connor and Angus Roberts in the early stages of the match against the Blues.
"Bryce stepped into the role of fly-half and delivered a very composed performance at Eden Park. His challenge this week is to again lead the attack against a formidable Stormers defence.
"We have monitored his on-field performance very closely with him playing locally. His training form and the work within the rugby community leaves me with no doubt that he is ready to lead this team's attack.
"With Cooper (Vuna) ruled out yesterday due to a mild calf injury, Rory Sidey will play 12, and Lachlan Mitchell will move to the wing. Rory is a very good communicator, which will certainly help Bryce and ultimately the team's performance."
Hill also selected Nic Stirzaker in the starting team, who will also make his run on debut. However, Hill made it clear that the form of Nick Phipps was not the reason for the selection change.
"Stirzaker is part of a new brigade of young Rebels and many people are looking forward to seeing him start," he said.
"Phipps will get a much earned break after some strong form over the past six weeks, which will hold him in good stead for Wallaby selection.
"They both work exceptionally well together in the squad, and I am sure Fanga (Phipps) will do everything he can for Nic in his preparation for Friday night."
The match also marks 22-year-old Kimami Sitauti's return from injury, with the young star set to make his Super Rugby debut from the reserves bench, after a breaking his leg early in the year.
"It is a credit to him and the Rebels recovery program that he will potentially gain his first cap on Friday," added Hill.
"It has been a long road for Kimami, and not just with his recent disappointment here in Melbourne.
"He has showed great resilience to work through many challenges over the years through injuries, and he has put himself in the best position to be available for selection."
Rebels: 15 Jason Woodward, 14 Tom English, 13 Mitch Inman, 12 Rory Sidey, 11 Lachlan Mitchell, 10 Bryce Hegarty, 9 Nic Stirzaker, 8 Scott Higginbotham (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 Gareth Delve, 20 Jordy Reid, 21 Nick Phipps, 22 Kimami Sitauti.
Date: Friday, May 17
Kick-off: 19:40 local (11:40 BST, 10:40 GMT)
Venue: AAMI Park, Melbourne
Referee: Mike Fraser (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Rohan Hoffmann (Australia), Ed Martin (Australia)
Television match official: Matt Goddard (Australia)