The Western Force will welcome back six players from injury for Saturday night’s (28 June) encounter against the Blues at the ‘Force Field’ (nib Stadium).
Hugh McMeniman (collarbone), Ben McCalman (groin), Alby Mathewson (ankle), Marcel Brache (ankle), Tetera Faulkner (back) and Solomoni Rasolea (wrist) will all return to the Western Force line-up in the club’s first match back following the three-week Test break.
McMeniman will return at blindside flanker in place of Angus Cottrell, who suffered a season-ending ankle injury in the Western Australian club’s last match against the Crusaders in Christchurch. McMeniman will make his first appearance since breaking his collarbone against the Chiefs (Week Six) and will form a new back-row combination with Wallaby representatives Matt Hodgson and Ben McCalman, who returns to the Force starting XV after missing the match in Christchurch.
Mathewson has been selected at scrumhalf in his first match against the Blues since leaving the Auckland club to join the Force for the 2013 Asteron Life Super Rugby season. The 28-year-old, who re-signed with the Force for another two seasons last month, has recovered from an ankle injury sustained against the NSW Waratahs in Week Nine and will again team up with ‘super boot’ flyhalf Sias Ebersohn in the halves.
Outside centre Brache will also make his return from an ankle injury suffered against the Stormers in Cape Town. The fleet-footed midfielder missed the last two matches but will make his comeback alongside Chris Tuatara-Morrison in the centres. On the bench, Rasolea will re-join squad after a broken wrist sidelined the powerful back since the club’s Week Eight win over the Queensland Reds in Brisbane. He will be joined on the reserves list by Faulkner, who missed the past two matches with a back complaint.
Head Coach Michael Foley says Saturday’s match represents an significant test for the Western Force. “A large part of our success this season has been the way the boys have maintained focus on the challenge in front of us,” he said. “This match is important as we want to play as well as we can in our next two home games in front of our fantastic supporters.
“One of the features of our season has been how individuals have responded as and when opportunities to play have been presented. On that basis, it’s good to have a number of players returning from injury as it intensifies competition within the squad as we move into the next three games.
“The Blues are a dangerous attacking side and the way we’ve defended, which has given us good go-forward this season, will again be an important part of a good performance on Saturday night.”
Players from the Western Force will wear the socks of their local Western Australian clubs as part of the ‘Club & Country’ match, that pays tribute to the clubs and nationalities that make up and support Western Australian rugby. Representatives from local clubs and nationalities will also take part in a parade around the ground prior to the match.
The Western Force will be looking to extend its record run of 2014 home wins to six, following victories over the Rebels, Chiefs, Waratahs, Bulls and Lions this season.
Tickets for Saturday night’s match are still available through www.ticketmaster.com.au.
2014 Asteron Life Super Rugby – Week 17
Western Force v Blues
The ‘Force Field’ (nib Stadium), Perth
Saturday, 28 June 2014
Kick-off: 7.45pm (AWST)
1. Pek Cowan
2. Nathan Charles
3. Kieran Longbottom
4. Sam Wykes
5. Adam Coleman
6. Hugh McMeniman
7. Matt Hodgson (c)
8. Ben McCalman
9. Alby Mathewson
10. Sias Ebersohn
11. Nick Cummins
12. Chris Tuatara-Morrison
13. Marcel Brache
14. Dane Haylett-Petty
15. Jayden Hayward
16. Heath Tessmann
17. Tetera Faulkner
18. Oliver Hoskins
19. Wilhelm Steenkamp
20. Brynard Stander
21. Ian Prior
22. Zack Holmes
23. Solomoni Rasolea