Super Rugby - O'Connor benched by Rebels

Departing star James O'Connor has been named on the bench for his final Super 15 game with the Melbourne Rebels on Friday.

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Super Rugby - O'Connor benched by Rebels
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James O'Connor, left, will start on the bench for the Melbourne Rebels on Friday

The Rebels announced earlier this week that they have not offered the Australia fly-half a contract for next season, with rival Super Rugby clubs in Australia already hunting the prized signature of the 23-year-old. But, prior to his departure, O'Connor will make one final appearance for the Rebels in their last game of the campaign against the Highlanders at AAMI Park in Melbourne on Friday.

"James wasn't able to train Monday and Tuesday, which gives him only the captain's run (on Thursday) to prepare," Hill said of O'Connor, who joined the Rebels from the Western Force in 2012 but has managed just 20 appearances and failed to have the desired impact due to a horror run of injuries.

"He has done extremely well to make himself available on the bench. I know this is a match he is very keen to play in."

Hill will also depart the Rebels following Friday's game, with the coach being replaced by Tony McGahan in 2014 after mixed results at the club during his two-year stint in charge.

The Rebels managed just four victories in Hill's first season in 2012 and get the chance to beat that tally when they take on the Highlanders in their 2013 finale.

"In the second half of the season we have showed great resilience, and I am very proud that we were able to beat the Stormers, our first South African opponent, as well as claim the Weary Dunlop Shield by beating the Waratahs in front of our Members and Rebel family at AAMI Park," Hill said.

"It would a fitting way to conclude this season with our first win over an in-form Highlanders side, and for the club to achieve its fifth win of the season."

Another player leaving at the end of the term is Welshman Gareth Delve, who will skipper the Rebels against the Highlanders.

Delve will wear the number eight jersey, while Cooper Vuna and Angus Roberts will return to the starting XV.

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