Gareth Delve has become the first foreign player to be named captain of an Australian Super Rugby team, with the Melbourne Rebels this morning making the announcement.
It was an expected appointment with the Welsh international having been the team's vice-captain for its first two seasons and its leader for the majority of last year as stand-in for the injured Stirling Mortlock. However, of more surprise was that coach Damien Hill did not announce a vice-captain saying that no-one in the long list of contenders, which includes Wallabies stars James O'Connor and Kurtley Beale, had stood out for selection.
Delve has impressed with his leadership and demeanour and is a popular choice as captain. He almost left at the end of last season to play French rugby, but late negotiations convinced him to stay.
"He's been an integral part of the club since day one and his performances on and off the field have been recognised by the playing group and the whole organisation and it's a fantastic achievement for Gareth," said Hill, who also announced Tim Davidson would for the third consecutive year hold the off-field role of club captain.
Delve said he would look to help develop the younger players both in their leadership and tactical knowledge and continue to lead by example.
"It's an incredible honour and not one that I expected when I turned up three years ago as a foreign player," Delve said.
He said the Rebels' narrow 41-35 loss to the high-fancied Bulls last year set the standard for the team he wanted to lead this year.
"That Bulls match in the first half (there was an) element of us really laying down the mark of how we wanted to play as a team, the real confidence and joy that the boys played with," Delve said. "Even when we conceded tries there was that confidence that we would go straight back there and go at them and in that moment you knew there was something special building with the team and it's a case of taking that into this season. We want to play with flair, we want to play with excitement ... (and) the lads enjoy playing great rugby and that's what we'll take and I need to try and lead the way."
Hill said the choice was Delve "wasn't difficult", the same could not be said about the vice-captaincy, with the responsibility to be shared among a host of contenders unless a standout become apparent during Saturday night's trial against the Hurricanes in Geelong.
"They all need to be vice captains to support their captain," Hill said. "In the fullness of time if one of those players stand out then vice-captaincy will also be considered."
"There's good leaders in that backline. You have Kurtley (Beale), you have James (O'Connor), Mitch Inman, Rory Sidey has done a great job, but in terms of standing out at the moment there's still time. There's no rush for it. We've got a leader in Gareth, we've got a club leader in Tim and at the moment that's what the team needs."
Hill said Hugh Pyle, who was named vice-captain when Delve stood in for Mortlock, was not chosen so that he could "focus on his own performance".
"He wants to do the best he can for the Melbourne Rebels and he also wants to do the best he can to put himself in contention for the Wallabies," Hill said.
"I'm going to let Hugh focus on that primarily. He has a leadership role in the team in regards to lineouts as it is. He is one of the key lineout callers and that's where his responsibility rests."