The Melbourne Rebels had known about talented Sydney University player Angus Roberts for some time, but when rival Super Rugby teams showed interest last year, they signed the 22-year-old, who can play full-back and five-eighth. Now, Roberts will get his chance this week, earlier than expected.
With regular full-back James O'Connor moving to five-eighth to replace the injured Kurtley Beale (hand), Roberts has been named in the No.15 jersey to play against Queensland at AAMI Park on Friday night.
Coach Damien Hill said he had been impressed with Roberts, who was an unused reserve against NSW last week, and was confident he could handle the pressure of his first Super Rugby start.
''He's been exceptional from day one - attitude, aptitude, skill, intelligence, he is a good footballer and he will become, I think, a very good Super Rugby footballer in the not-too-distant future,'' Hill said.
''He trialled very well, [is] robust, [has] good speed, a good kicking game, passing game and [is a] strong defender.''
Roberts, who grew up in Gunnedah before going to high school in Sydney, said he had been learning all he could from Wallabies back-line stars O'Connor and Beale.
''The Reds have got some world-class players in their back line, with Digby [Ioane], Ben Tapuai and Quade [Cooper], so it's a good opportunity to come up against some of the best and see how I fare,'' he said.
Despite the Rebels' disappointing fade-outs against the Brumbies and NSW, Hill said he was confident his team could upset the Reds.
''I think they [Reds] have been underestimated, to be honest. The Brumbies played very well against them first-up, and everyone's … saying that the Hurricanes had enough opportunities to win [last weekend], yet they didn't and you've got to put that down to the Reds' defence and strategy in attack.''
O'Connor will keep the captaincy this week after Gareth Delve was again ruled out. The Rebels hope that next week's bye will give Delve the time needed to recover from a shoulder problem for their three-game trip to South Africa, and then to Perth to tackle the Western Force.
South Australian-born Alex Rokobaro has also been included in the starting team on the wing, with inside-centre Rory Sidey dropped to the bench.
MELBOURNE REBELS SQUAD: Angus Roberts, Richard Kingi, Mitch Inman, Lachlan Mitchell, Alex Rokobaro, James O'Connor (capt), Nick Phipps, Scott Higginbotham, Scott Fuglistaller, Luke Jones, Cadeyrn Neville, Hugh Pyle, Laurie Weeks, Ged Robinson, Nic Henderson. Res: Shota Horie, Paul Alo-Emile, Jordy Reid, Jarrod Saffy, Nic Stirzaker, Rory Sidey, Tom English.