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Emirates Western Force Coach John Mitchell has named his team for Saturday night’s Super 14 Week 12 clash with the Chiefs at Subiaco Oval.


The Perth-based team is facing a deepening injury toll but will welcome back star playmaker Matt Giteau to spearhead the attack in Cameron Shepherd’s 50th Super Rugby match.


After losing Tamaiti Horua (knee, season) Tom Hockings (shoulder) and Haig Sare (ankle) to injury in the team’s last outing a fortnight ago, Mitchell was again forced to re-shuffle his lineup today when projected starters Scott Staniforth (knee) and Sam Wykes (hamstring) were both forced to withdraw from Saturday night’s clash.


In a completely new-look 22 to the one which lost 29-12 to the Reds in Brisbane, the third-year Emirates Western Force Coach has taken a view to the future with his side now only a distant chance of finals qualification.


17 year old rookie James O’Connor has been handed the No.12 jersey, while two local juniors have been added to the reserves bench.


O’Connor, who debuted off the reserves bench with an eye-catching 20-minute cameo against the Reds, will share the playmaking duties with Giteau in his run-on debut.


In other changes to the starting side, James Stannard earns another shot at scrumhalf and Matt Hodgson has won the Number 8 spot.


Having twice started at openside flanker this season, Hodgson assumes the Number 8 role for the first time in his career.


Elsewhere in the pack, veteran lock David Pusey rejoins Captain Nathan Sharpe at lock and Nick Cummins returns to the right wing.


Mitchell has named an almost entirely new reserves bench featuring two locally-produced players in Kieran Longbottom and Dane Haylett-Petty who are both in line to register their first Super 14 cap.


The only born and bred West Australian in the Emirates Western Force squad, Longbottom was a big contributor for the ET Perth Spirit in last year’s ARC and has represented WA at Under 15, Under 16 and Schoolboys level.


Haylett-Petty, an 18 year old Hale School product, makes his second appearance in the match 22 this season.


Utility back Scott Daruda returns from an ankle injury to wear the number 21 jersey, while Sitaleki Timani returns to the bench for the first time since Week 1.


Mitchell said the Chiefs had timed their run to the semi finals to perfection, claiming some big scalps along the way.


‘They are the only team to beat the Crusaders and did so by matching their physicality and building and sustaining pressure on them for the full eighty minutes,’ said Mitchell.


‘Their scrum has been outstanding and their forward play, particularly around their loose forward trio has paved the way for a lot of their wins.’


Mitchell said his side was looking to recapture its early-season form, rather than looking towards the semi finals.


‘We can’t afford to focus on factors we can’t control, so our sole focus is on playing our best rugby from now until the end of our campaign, whenever that happens to be,’ he said.


Overall head to head: Played 2, Chiefs 2, EWF 0.
Last met: 14 April 2007, Chiefs 64 def EWF 36, Waikato Stadium, Hamilton.


Emirates Western Force v Chiefs
Saturday 3 May, 2008
Subiaco Oval, Perth
Kick off: 5.40pm (7.40pm AEST)


Emirates Western Force


1. Pek Cowan,2. Tai McIsaac,3. Troy Takiari,4. David Pusey,5. Nathan Sharpe (c),6. Scott Fava,7. David Pocock,8. Matt Hodgson,9. James Stannard,10. Matt Giteau (vc),11. Drew Mitchell,12. James O’Connor,13. Ryan Cross,14. Nick Cummins,15. Cameron Shepherd


Reserves:16. Luke Holmes,17. Kieran Longbottom,18. Sitaleki Timani,19. Richard Brown,20. Chris O’Young,21. Scott Daruda,22. Dane Haylett-Petty

 

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