James O'Connor will play his last match for the Rebels against the Highlanders. Image courtesy of skysports.com
Wallabies flyhalf James O’Connor will make his final appearance for the Melbourne Rebels against the Highlanders on Friday night, but will do so from the bench after being left out of the starting XV by coach Damien Hill. The 23 year-old has been battling injury since returning from international duty, where he was heavily criticised for his performances in the number ten jersey.
Kurtley Beale won’t line up as he continues to undergo rehabilitation for much publicised alcohol issues, while several other players will pull on the Rebels jersey for the last time with the club out of finals contention. Winger Cooper Vuna , Gareth Delve, Nick Phipps, Nic Henderson and Ged Robinson have all been named in the run on side but will play their rugby elsewhere next season.
The Highlanders have made two changes to the team that scored a thrilling 49-44 victory over the Hurricanes last weekend, with captain Andrew Hore returning at hooker and Jason Emery drafted in to play outside centre.
Both of these franchises have had seasons to forget, with the Highlanders second from bottom and the Rebels just two places higher on the Super Rugby table. The Rebels haven’t played since losing 39-17 to the Brumbies prior to the British and Irish Lions series, while the Kiwi outfit has won two of its past three fixtures. The Highlanders won both previous meetings between these sides.
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