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Force name strong line up for Brumbies opener

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Article Published: Wednesday 22 February 2012|

The Western Force have named their Super Rugby team to face the Brumbies this weekend with eight internationals in their run-on side and nine potential club debutants.

Following 15 weeks of intensive pre-season preparations Coach Richard Graham said his side is eager to make a strong statement as competition points go on the line for the first time in 2012.

"We've drawn a line in the sand and the most important thing for us is our start to the game this Friday night," Graham said.

"There is huge excitement and anticipation. We've been going now in pre-season for three and a half months and the boys are really keen to get started.

"Every week the expectation is that you perform at your very best and give yourself a chance to win, that's certainly the expectation we've got on each other heading into this match."

After being rested throughout the trial match period star lock Nathan Sharpe will pull on his familiar number five jersey in a big boost for the club.

Sharpe dominated the lineout the last time he was in Canberra and will again be looking to give the Western Force an advantage in the forwards alongside Wallaby backrow trio of David Pocock, Matt Hodgson and Ben McCalman as well as capped props Pek Cowan and new recruit Salesi Ma'afu.

While there are familiar tones to the Western Force squad, Graham has reinvigorated the Perth side and there will be a number of new faces wearing the ocean blue for the first time.

Marquee winger and Fijian International Napolioni Nalaga will be one to watch having previously dominated the French Top14 competition with Clermont. In his four seasons in France Nalaga picked up a 'Top14 Player of the Year' award as well heading the try scorers list twice.

Other players in line to make their Western Force debut include lock Toby Lynn and outside centre Winston Stanley, who have been named in the starting XV, while hooker Elvis Taione, and youngsters Phoenix Battye (lock), Angus Cottrell (flanker), Ben Seymour (flyhalf) and Sam Wara (outside back) are on the substitutes' bench.

Sam Wykes will miss the match after being unable to shake a hamstring strain in time for the match.

"The only way you gain experience is by playing. We have a lot of confidence in the players we've selected, they've all had a chance to get a run in the pre-season matches and are determined to make the most of their opportunities," Graham said.

"For a guy like Phoenix, he has been in our programme for 12 months and played really well in Samoa during last year's post season tour. The same goes for Angus who has come in this pre-season and shown he can perform at this level."

The Western Force will head east this afternoon and train in Canberra on Thursday as they look to extend their solid form in the ACT where they have won on their last two visits.

Western Force

1. Pek Cowan,2. Nathan Charles,3. Salesi Ma'afu,4. Toby Lynn,5. Nathan Sharpe,6. Matt Hodgson,7. David Pocock (Captain),8. Ben McCalman,9. Brett Sheehan,10. James Stannard,11. Napolioni Nalaga,12. Rory Sidey,13. Winston Stanley,14. Nick Cummins,15. Alfie Mafi

Reserves:16. Elvis Taione,17. Kieran Longbottom,18. Phoenix Battye,19. Angus Cottrell,20. Justin Turner,21. Ben Seymour,22. Sam Wara

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