Rookie Rebel gets jump on Beale
Great nick … Kurtley Beale is in good condition. Photo: Getty Images
James O'Connor or Kurtley Beale at No.10? That's the big dilemma facing Melbourne Rebels coach Damien Hill at the start of this year.
But it's unheralded youngster Angus Roberts who is set to get first chance to call the playmaking shots in their opening Super Rugby trial against the NSW Waratahs on Saturday night.
Sydney University five-eighth Roberts will share time at both first-receiver and fullback with O'Connor, who is likely to start his long-awaited comeback at No.15, in the Hobart pre-season clash.
The 22-year-old has impressed throughout the pre-season and is viewed as a diamond in the rough by Melbourne officials. ''For a young guy who hasn't played that much [professional] rugby he's done exceptionally well this pre-season,'' Hill said. ''He will get time at 10 and 15 and James will get time at 10 and 15.''
If O'Connor makes his comeback from recurring hamstring troubles at fullback, it could well be opposite code-jumper Israel Folau, who is set to make his senior rugby debut for the Waratahs.
O'Connor loomed as the long-term five-eighth once Englishman Danny Cipriani left the Rebels last season but it was Beale who made the biggest impact as No.10, then going on to impress as Wallabies playmaker. Neither, however, are expected to be included in the Rebels leadership group.
Beale could be rested for the opening trial due to his heavy schedule last year but Hill said he had returned to the Rebels in good shape - far better than 12 months ago when he admitted to starting the season unfit.
''He's in great nick,'' Hill said. ''We still have to get some kilometres into his legs but in terms of his attitude and overall physical condition he's come back exceptionally well.''