Rugby - Welshman Delve to lead confident Rebels against Lions

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Former Wales loose forward Gareth Delve will go head-to-head with three of his compatriots when he skippers the Melbourne Rebels against the British and Irish Lions at Football Park on Tuesday.

Rebels coach Damien Hill named his strongest possible team, with recent Wallaby scrumhalf signing Luke Burgess making his first start for Australia's newest Super Rugby franchise in the last midweek clash of the Lions tour.

"Every Rugby player's dream is to have the opportunity to play the British and Irish Lions in their home country, and I am very honoured to have been selected to start for the Rebels and get a chance to play them," Burgess, who joined after a spell with Toulouse in France, said in a statement.

"European Rugby is a lot different to what we have Down Under and I think I can bring an edge to the Rebels' attack, and control the tempo of the game.

"It's important we establish this early, as we have seen what they can do when allowed to control the match."

The Lions beat the Wallabies 23-21 in a memorable first test in Brisbane on Saturday and coach Warren Gatland named a second-string side to face the Rebels ahead of the second test in Melbourne next weekend.

Gatland called upon many of the side that stuttered in the 14-12 defeat to the ACT Brumbies last Tuesday and the Rebels will be buoyed by that result as they bid to spring a surprise in their first clash against the tourists.

Although Wallaby trio Kurtley Beale, James O'Connor and Nick Phipps are unavailable due to international commitments, and standout loose forward Scott Higginbotham is missing through injury, the Rebels can call on a host of tried and tested Super Rugby performers.


Lachlan Mitchell, Tom English and Jason Woodward are named in an exciting back three that will run at the opposition given any opportunity, while the experienced front row of Nic Henderson, Ged Robinson and Laurie Weeks will be out to stifle the powerful Lions scrum.

Delve, who won the last of his 11 caps for Wales before moving to the Rebels for their debut season in 2010, is joined in the loose forwards by the impressive New Zealander Scott Fuglistaller and blindside Jarrod Saffy, who should make the breakdown competitive.

Rookie Bryce Hegarty, who steered the side to wins over the Stormers and Waratahs, is named at flyhalf after recovering from illness and is one of a number of young, talented players Hill praised ahead of the clash.

"We have been without a number of our high profile players this season but the squad has met these challenges head on with many of the younger members... getting their first taste of Super Rugby," he said.

"Their efforts have contributed to a number of excellent team performances this season and they are excited about the challenge they will face together on Tuesday night."

The Rebels have won four of their 15 matches in this year's Super Rugby campaign to sit fourth out of the five teams in the Australian conference.

Scoring tries has not been a problem for the expansion side but a tendency to ship points is likely to make Tuesday's game a high-scoring affair.


15-Jason Woodward, 14-Tom English, 13-Mitch Inman, 12-Rory Sidey, 11-Lachlan Mitchell, 10-Bryce Hegarty, 9-Luke Burgess, 8-Gareth Delve (c), 7-Scott Fuglistaller, 6-Jarrod Saffy, 5-Hugh Pyle, 4-Cadeyrn Neville, 3-Laurie Weeks, 2-Ged Robinson, 1-Nic Henderson.

Replacements: 16-Pat Leafa, 17-Cruze Ah Nau, 18-Paul Alo-Emile, 19-Luke Jones, 20-Jordy Reid, 21-Nic Stirzaker, 22-Angus Roberts, 23-Cooper Vuna.

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