Angus Bell, the son of former Wallabies hooker Mark Bell, is set to make his starting Super Rugby debut on Friday night against the Melbourne Rebels in a match coach Rob Penney says the group is "desperate" to win.
Penney has made four changes to the starting XV that lost to the Blues at the weekend, naming Alex Newsome at outside-centre – a position he has never played in Super Rugby – and two new wingers in Jack Maddocks and Cam Clark for an important Australian derby in Melbourne.
Bell has averaged 29 minutes off the bench in two outings against the Crusaders and Blues, and showed he belongs at the next level by backing up some auspicious performances for the Junior Wallabies last year.
His father, Mark, played one Test for the Wallabies in 1996 at hooker and is the Waratahs' new scrum coach.
“I think Angus’ mum provided him the athletic genes,” Penney joked on Wednesday. “Angus is an outstanding prospect. He's a gem of a player. When you’re considering putting a young guy into a starting position, and the front row in particular, [it is about] their physical and mental ability to cope and Angus has proved over the last couple of weeks that he is more than capable. Now the time is right."
Asked what Bell's strengths were, Penney said: “He’s unusually athletic for a front-rower. He’s very strong and technically very able. He’s been in the lounge from an early age learning his craft in front of the television with his old man. All those elements are key, but the biggest one is his mental application. He’s got a deeply ingrained winning attitude and resilience.”
The 19-year-old has replaced Tom Robertson on the loose-head side, Penney keeping faith in tight-head prop Harry Johnson-Holmes, who had a "tough day" in Newcastle during a 32-12 loss to the Blues.