Super Rugby round 14: Force v Stormers
Bryce Hegarty handed starting berth
May 16, 2013
The Blues' Rene Ranger crashes through James O'Connor, Blues v Melbourne Rebels, Super Rugby, Eden Park, Auckland, May 11, 2013
James O'Connor will miss one or two games with a sternum injury exacerbated in this clash with Rene Ranger © Getty Images

Rugby league convert Bryce Hegarty has been thrust into the Melbourne Rebels' hot seat with a run-on Super Rugby debut at five-eighth against the Stormers on Friday night. Hegarty, 20 and a mere extended playing squad member this year, landed the Rebels' playmaking role following injuries to James O'Connor and Angus Roberts on top of the enforced absence of Kurtley Beale.

He is one of four changes to the team that lost 36-32 to the Blues in Auckland last weekend, after impressing off the bench. Rebels coach Damien Hill backed Hegarty, the son of former Manly rugby league player Steve Hegarty who played rugby league three for years in the Brisbane Broncos under-20 team, to shine against the best defensive team in the competition. "Bryce stepped into the role of fly-half and delivered a very composed performance at Eden Park," Hill said. "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."

Melbourne suffered another injury blow, losing winger Cooper Vuna to a calf injury, prompting Hill to switch Lachlan Mitchell to the wing and Rory Sidey to inside centre. "Rory is a very good communicator, which will certainly help Bryce and ultimately the team's performance," Hill said.

Nic Stirzaker will also make his run-on starting debut in a greenhorn halves combination, with scrum-half Nick Phipps rotated onto the bench. "Stirzaker is part of a new brigade of young Rebels, and many people are looking forward to seeing him start," Hill said. "Phipps will get a much earned break after some strong form over the past six weeks.

Former Queensland Reds and Brumbies three-quarter Kimami Sitauti, 22, has been named to make his Super Rugby debut as he returns from a broken leg on a 5-2 bench.

Rebels: Jason Woodward; Tom English, Mitch Inman, Rory Sidey, Lachlan Mitchell; Bryce Hegarty, Nic Stirzaker; Scott Higginbotham (captain), Scott Fuglistaller, Jarrod Saffy; Cadeyrne Neville, Hugh Pyle; Laurie Weeks, Ged Ronisnon, Nic Henderson. Replacements: Shota Horie, Paul Alo-Emile, Luke Jones, Gareth Delve, Jordy Reid, Nick Phipps, Kimami Sitauti.


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