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By Waratahs Media Unit
After a long pre-season of hard training, the NSW Waratahs kick off the 2014 season with their first trial match against the Melbourne Rebels in Albury this Saturday, February 1.
Lining up against his old team mates will be Kurtley Beale, back in the light blue for the first time since 2011, when he pulls on the No. 10 jersey on Saturday. Also starting are fellow newcomers Jono Lance, who joins the Tahs from the Reds, and Australian U20s and sevens player Tala Gray.
Although technically a Rebels’ home game, the match takes place on NSW territory, just north of the Victorian border. NSW Waratahs coach Michael Cheika has named a strong starting XV for the game, that he hopes will entice the country rugby community to get behind their state team.
“A lot of the lads come from the country areas, like those rural communities we’ve stopped at along the way,” said Cheika, of the four-day Waratahs Volvo Community Roadshow the team is undertaking on its way to Albury.
“Some of those places have probably felt some connection to the Brumbies in the past but if it’s in NSW, we would love the people to want to support their state’s team. “It doesn’t matter what team or code you follow, if you’re from NSW, you can support the Waratahs.”
With the Rebels having recorded their first win over NSW in six meetings when the teams last met, the game is set to provide a great contest for both teams as they gear up preparations for the new Super Rugby season.
Adding to the rivalry, will be the presence of NSW assistant coach Nathan Grey, who spent the past three seasons as part of the Melbourne coaching team.
Said Grey, “It will be great, a good challenge and fun to see all the Rebels players but also be a bit weird to see them on the other side of the fence. I am really looking forward to the game and it will be great for the Waratahs to finally have their first hit out after a long pre season.”
Also named in the starting XV are a number of invited players, including Stephen Hoiles, who will make a much-anticipated return to rugby at the back of the scrum, where he will line up alongside captain Pat McCutcheon and Tala Gray.
With the game not televised, rugby fans are encouraged to get down to the game. Tickets are priced from just $17 for adults and $8 for concessions are available now online. Alternatively, fans can follow the action blow by blow and score by score on twitter, using the #REBvWAR.
NSW Waratahs team to play the Rebels
Pre-season trial match - Saturday 1 February (5pm)
Albury Sportsground, NSW
Replacements have yet to be confirmed.