The Western Force will go into battle against 2014 Semi-finalists Canberra Brumbies this Friday, for their first match of the pre-season in Perth.
It has been a big pre-season for the Force squad, building off the 2014 National Rugby Championship (NRC) final. They will look to test their early form against the Brumbies, who beat the Force convincingly in both encounters last season.
The Force will play a 31-man squad, with Wallabies Tetera Faulkner, Kyle Godwin, Pek Cowan and Nathan Charles included in the list. They will also show off four new recruits, including Ross Haylett-Petty, former Leicester Tigers second/back-rower Steve Mafi, winger Mitchell Scott and centre Ammon Matuauto.
It will be a very big season for the Force, who were easily the most improved side in the competition last year. They narrowly missed the finals a lack of bonus points, only picking up four. This left them sitting equal 14th in the league for the amount of bonus points scored, with the league average for bonus points being seven.
The Brumbies have been one of the strongest Australian sides in Super Rugby since 2012, leading Australian Super Rugby in most wins (30), fewest losses (16) and best points difference (+242). They will bring over a star-studded line up, with Wallabies David Pocock, Nic White, Matt Toomua, Scott Sio, Josh Mann-Rea Christian Lealiifano, Joe Tomane and Henry Speight. Stephen Moore and Scott Fardy will stay in Canberra.
Playing the Brumbies so early will prove a challenge for the Force, who did not face a Super Rugby side in their 2014 pre-season, where they had two easy victories over the Argentine Pampas XV and Samoa A.
Western Force Coach Michael Foley said there has been a lot of preparation leading into the match.
“We started preparation for this game probably at the beginning of the NRC, so there was a lot of preparation done then,” he said.
“The boys had a bit of a break, then have come back in and trained very well prior to Christmas.
“We finished our last session on Tuesday, and you get the sense the players are saying ‘no more training’ let’s get into it, so we are really looking forward to seeing them run around on Friday against the Brumbies.
“We’re going to try and take most of the squad out to about 60 minutes, trials are great because people emerge and put in great performances, so there’s competition for spots.
“Some guys will 40 minutes and there will be a little bit more time given to the guy coming onto the field, just to challenge for that position.
“We have worked very hard on improving certain aspects of our game, one of the important things is how we create line breaks and opportunities in attack, so we need to be practicing that from game one.”
Friday’s match will be played at McGillivray Park, Mt Claremont, with tickets available from the Western Force team store or at the gate on match day, so come on down and help ‘fill the hill’ with the Sea of Blue.