The injury-hit Melbourne Rebels will hand youngster Ben Meehan his Super Rugby run-on debut against the Waratahs on Friday night.
The Melbourne Rebels are putting their contentious Super Rugby win over the Queensland Reds behind them to focus on fast-tracking new halfback Ben Meehan to meet the NSW Waratahs.
The Rebels pipped the Reds through a last-gasp penalty awarded against Ed O’Donoghue for alleged eye-gouging of Rebels skipper Scott Higginbotham, for which he was subsequently exonerated by a SANZAR judicial hearing on Monday.
Meehan, 21, will make his Super Rugby run-on debut against the Test-stacked Waratahs at AAMI Park on Friday night following serious injuries to both Luke Burgess and Nic Stirzaker.
Burgess fractured his knee during a standout performance at Suncorp but he was getting around Rebels headquarters on Tuesday with barely a limp, prompting hopes of a return before season’s end.
Coach Tony McGahan said he had “no thoughts” about O’Donoghue’s exoneration and that the side had moved on.
“We’ve got a few issues with injury so we’ve got to bed down Ben Meehan and (backup halfback) Josh Holmes, who only came in last week so that’s really pressing,” he said.
“We’ve got enough things to be worrying about ourselves and how we prepare for the Waratahs this week.”
Meehan has made five appearances off the bench this season and is highly rated after being voted Player’s Player of the Australian under-20s side at last year’s World Cup.
McGahan said Meehan had the best kicking game of the trio of halfbacks and backed him to rise to the challenge of taking on Wallabies and former Rebels No.9 Nick Phipps.
“Ben has worked really hard behind the scenes to get this opportunity and he’s really keen to make the most of it.”
The Waratahs staked their claim for Super Rugby finals with an emphatic 41-13 win over the visiting Lions on Sunday and trail the Brumbies by just a point.
In their round six match NSW crushed the Rebels 32-8, and McGahan rated them an even tougher prospect now.
“They’re playing great rugby, both sides of the ball, set piece, everything.
“They’re looking like a finals side … and they’re only getting stronger as the season goes on.
“They would see this as the perfect opportunity to pick up good points and put themselves in a really strong position so we need to back up what we’ve done and protect last week’s work.”