The Waratahs have revealed that they will play their first Super Rugby warm up match for the 2014 season against the Melbourne Rebels.
Waratahs new recruits Kurtley Beale and Nick Phipps, along with defensive coach Nathan Grey, will take on their old club the Melbourne Rebels in their first trial match for 2014.
The NSW Waratahs will truck it down south to border town Albury, where they'll take on the Rebels at the Albury Sports Ground on Saturday February 1, 2014.
Beale spent five seasons with NSW before joining the Rebels. He returns to the Waratahs after two years and 14 caps with Melbourne and couldn't imagine a better game to make his return from injury.
"I've tentatively pencilled in the Rebels as my first game back from shoulder surgery and it's shaping as good test for me both mentally and physically."
NSW-born Nick Phipps spent three seasons in Victoria with the franchise before returning to guide the Waratahs.
"Coming up against your old team mates isn't easy but I'm looking forward to the challenge."
Gosford-born Nathan Grey played 94 games for the Waratahs before becoming a foundation member of the Rebels' coaching staff.
Grey has an inside knowledge of the Rebels' roster but says, "It's just a trial and for the first time in my coaching career, all I'll be worried about is NSW."
NSW coach Michael Cheika hasn't forgotten the last time they played in round 15 in 2013.It was the Waratahs' first ever loss to the Rebels and with it went the Weary Dunlop Shield for the first time.
"The developing rivalry between the two sides isn't a bad thing and even though it's out first trial, it's also a great opportunity to stake a claim for a place in the starting team."
Melbourne Rebels Head Coach Tony McGahan said the game was an exciting opportunity for Rebels members who live within the region, but ultimately a great test for the young Rebels squad.
"We have a lot of Rebels Members in the Albury Wodonga region and to bring world class Super Rugby to their doorstep is something we are really looking forward to.
"It's our first match of the season, and we will be facing a Waratahs squad with 12 current Wallabies. It will be a great test for this young team, and a fierce contest to begin our 2014 campaign," said McGahan.
The Rebels last played the Waratahs in Round Fifteen of the 2013 season, historically beating NSW for the first time 24-22, and claiming the Weary Dunlop Shield.
"There's a strong rivalry between these two teams, witnessed last time we met. The Waratahs will be looking to atone for losing the Weary Dunlop Shield, and we will be looking to start 2014 on a high, and reward our loyal Members," said McGahan.
For 2014 Rebel, Lopeti Timani, it is the first time the backrower will face his former team.
"This is the perfect venue for the trial, being on the border," said the new Rebels recruit.
"It's a great way to begin the 2014 season. It will be different playing across from the sky blue for the first time, but a challenge I'm looking forward to, especially with the Wallabies they have in their side.
"It has been great spending time with the boys in these first few weeks, and everybody across the entire Club, players, coaches and our off field team are really working hard, and this will be a big test for the Club to show what we're capable of in 2014."
The are set to make the road trip a convoy to Albury to meet their interstate rivals in the first trial match of the season at the Albury Sports Ground on Saturday 1 February 2014.
The following week the Waratahs are in home action against the Auckland Blues, featuring new signing and league-convert Benji Marshall, at Allianz Stadium on Friday February 7 (entry to which is free for 2014 members).
They open their 2014 Super Rugby campaign at the same venue two weeks later with a big local derby against rivals the Western Force in the first of three family-friendly Sunday afternoon kick offs.