Vedelago to make debut for Western Force


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Powerful lock Rudi Vedelago will make his debut for the Emirates Western Force against the Highlanders in Dunedin.

The former Queensland Red had a wrist reconstruction in December and it was thought he would miss the season.

But a better than expected recovery will see him play his first game for the Emirates Western Force on Saturday.

Versatile back Gavin DeBartolo will also make his run-on debut for the Perth team, replacing Haig Sare who strained a hamstring in the first half against the Stormers.

DeBartolo came on for Sare in the second half of last week’s game, scoring a magnificent kick and chase try in the 66th minute.

In other changes, tight head prop David Fitter returns to the starting 15, as does Matt Henjak and David Pusey, while Angus Scott, Chris O’Young and Luke Doherty move to the bench.

Emirates Western Force head coach John Mitchell said he was delighted Vedelago had made a quicker than expected recovery, and he would bring a further option to the line out.

‘Rudi has been in full contact training for two weeks and had a strong performance for his club last weekend,’ Mitchell said.

‘He was devastated at the prospect of missing the season and after surgery worked really hard at making an early return,’ he said.

‘Rudi has to start building match fitness at some stage and that time is now.’

Mitchell said Henjak was the team’s number one scrumhalf and would return to the starting 15 to battle the bigger Kiwi Number 9s.

‘They’re almost a third flanker so I like to have a sizeable player at scrumhalf,’ he said.

Like the Emirates Western Force, the Highlanders had been hit by injury but Mitchell said they had a powerful tight five, three members of which were current All Blacks.

He said they also had hard working flankers in Josh Blackie and Craig Newby, and quality young footballers in Richard Kahui and Willie Ripia.

The squad is:
1. Gareth Hardy
2. Brendan Cannon
3. David Fitter
4. Rudi Vedelago
5. Nathan Sharpe (c)
6. David Pusey
7. Matt Hodgson
8. Scott Fava
9. Matt Henjak
10. James Hilgendorf
11. Digby Ioane
12. Scott Staniforth
13. Josh Graham
14. Gavin DeBartolo
15. Cameron Shepherd |


16. Tai McIsaac
17. Angus Scott
18. Luke Doherty
19. Tim Davidson
20. Chris O’Young
21. Scott Daruda
22. Brock James
23. John Welborn

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