The Western Force have named their team to play the New South Wales Waratahs in their first Super Rugby AU match on Saturday.
The Western Force will rely on continuity and experience when they face the Waratahs as in the matchday 23 named by coach Tim Sampson includes 18 of the players who featured in the club’s 54-15 rout of the Malaysia Valke in a Global Rapid Rugby clash on March 14.
“Consistency and continuity will be very important given it is our first Super Rugby game in a few years,” said Sampson.
“We have several players who have performed consistently well for us and have played at this level before. The selection has a very good balance from 1 to 23 in terms of experience.”
There are four changes to the run-on XV from the March outing with two having vast Super Rugby experience.
Jono Lance makes his return in Force colours, starting at flyhalf in place of AJ Alatimu. Lance has 66 previous Super Rugby caps and two Super Rugby titles to his name after playing a key role for the Reds in 2011 and the Waratahs in 2014. He has spent the past three seasons with the Worcester Warriors in England.
“Jono has looked after himself really well, he is in good nick. Having that experience in a number 10 jersey is crucial for us, especially in our first game to make sure we start well. He will show good leadership there and provide good game management for us,” he said.
Lock Jeremy Thrush, whose Super Rugby pedigree includes more than 100 caps for the Hurricanes, is promoted to the starting line-up with Johan Bardoul moving to the bench. Thrush will add a physical edge to the Force pack.
Other changes to the starting XV include the promotion of flanker Tevin Ferris from the bench, replacing the retired Chris Alcock, and the inclusion of back Nick Jooste at inside centre in place of Henry Taefu, who moves to the bench.
Amongst the reserves, new Force signing, Wallaby prop Greg Holmes, has been included in place of Tom Sheminant. Holmes is a veteran of 144 Super Rugby caps with the Reds and comes to Perth after a two-season stint with English Premiership team, Exeter.
“Greg can make a huge impact coming off the bench. He is passing on his experience to other players as well, which is good for the team as a whole,” Sampson said.
Centre Kyle Godwin, who has returned to the West after two seasons with Irish side Connacht is bracketed with Jake Strachan, and in a final change on the bench, talented youngster Ollie Callan, who has come through the Force junior ranks, has been selected as loose-forward cover.
“We have included a few of the new signings on the bench for this first outing as we have to be very careful how we manage their workload, given they have been in quarantine for some time. There are also a number of Force youngsters who will be getting their first taste of rugby at this level, which will be a great experience for them,” Sampson said.
15 Jack McGregor, 14 Byron Ralston, 13 Marcel Brache, 12 Nick Jooste, 11 Brad Lacey, 10 Jono Lance, 9 Ian Prior, 8 Brynard Stander, 7 Tevin Ferris, 6 Henry Stowers, 5 Fergus Lee Warner, 4 Jeremy Thrush, 3 Kieran Longbottom, 2 Feleti Kaitu’u, 1 Angus Wagner
Replacements: 16 Andrew Ready, 17 Chris Heiberg, 18 Greg Holmes, 19 Johan Bardoul 20 Ollie Callan, 21 Jacob Abel, 22 Henry Taefy, 23 Kyle Godwin