The Western Force have injected another three new up-and-coming players into its program as part of its Extended Playing Squad (EPS) for the 2013 Super Rugby season.
Prop Salesi Manu returns on an EPS contract after impressing during his eight Super Rugby matches for the province in his debut season in 2012. Manu will be joined by Sydney representative hooker James Hilterbrand, and the NSW Country pairing of scrumhalf Mick Snowden and lock Rory Walton.
The foursome joins an Western Force outfit featuring an overhauled backline for 2013 - with 11 backline players not returning from last season - while the province's forward pack has been consolidated with the signing of NSW Waratahs flanker Chris Alcock.
Australian provinces are entitled to five EPS-contracted players each season in addition to their 30-man senior squad. The Western Force still has one EPS contract available for 2013, as well as one forward and one back position within its senior squad. The Western Australian province may still utilise one of its foreign developing player allocations for next season.
Two members from last year's Western Force EPS - back-rower Angus Cottrell and flyhalf Kyle Godwin - have been promoted into the senior squad for the 2013 Super Rugby season, while Samu Wara and Elvis Taione have not been re-signed.
Head Coach Michael Foley says the EPS players are a vital extension to the Western Force.
"These players continue our recruitment of the best up-and-coming talent available," he said. "They have all shown their ability and consistency across a variety of levels of club and representative football and we're keen to continue their development within our rugby program.
"Past seasons have shown that the majority of EPS players invariably get their opportunity at this level and we've looked to sign players that are not only capable of competing at this level but are hungry for that opportunity and keen to continue pushing themselves when they receive it.
"In addition to recruiting these players, we will also be inviting selected members from the local Perth competition and Bankwest Academy into our playing squad throughout the pre-season to expose them to our program and assist with their rugby development. This is an important step for these players and for us as we look to be in a position to integrate more local players into the squad moving forward."
The Western Force will begin pre-season training on Monday (22 October) ahead of the 2013 Super Rugby season.
Name: James Hilterbrand
Representative Rugby: 2012 Sydney Representative, 2007 Australia Under 18, 2007 South Australia Under 21, 2005-2006 South Australia Schools, 2004-2005 South Australia Under 16
James Hilterbrand is a powerful hooker who joins the Western Force from Sydney club, Manly. The Adelaide-born 23-year-old is a rare South Australian product, who progressed through the representative ranks of his native state before joining the Marlins. Having risen through the grades at Manly, Hilterbrand established himself as the club's leading hooker in 2012 and was rewarded for a stellar Shute Shield season with selection as starting rake for the Sydney Anchors side that defeated NSW Country 26-13.
Name: Salesi Manu
Representative Rugby: 2011 Australia Under 20, 2008 Australian Schoolboys
Salesi Manu continues his development with the Western Force after joining the side on an EPS contract for 2012. The versatile front-rower made his Super Rugby debut against the Stormers in Week 10 and held down the starting tighthead role for the final three matches of the season against the Brumbies, Blues and Crusaders. The former Australian Schoolboys and Under 20 representative completed his season by representing North Harbour in New Zealand's ITM Cup competition.
Name: Michael Snowden
Representative Rugby: 2011-2012 NSW Country, 2006 NSW Country Juniors
Michael Snowden is a zippy Eastwood half who established himself as one of the premier scrumhalves in Sydney's Shute Shield competition. Snowden, 24, was born and raised in the NSW city of Tamworth before relocating to Sydney. Having worked his way through the grades with the North Shore club, he experienced a breakout club season in 2012, crossing for six tries to help Eastwood to a minor premiership and earning selection with the NSW Country side for a second successive season.
Name: Rory Walton
Representative Rugby: 2011 NSW Country, 2011 Australian Barbarians
Rory Walton is a rangy, mobile forward who can over both lock and blindside flanker. The hard-nosed forward has plied his trade for Sydney's Northern Suburbs and was a key member of the side during their charge through the Shute Shield semi-finals. Walton, a former member of the Brumbies Academy, has previously represented the Australian Barbarians and NSW Country.