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Force building confidence in combinations ahead of Reds clash

By AAP
Hamish Stewart with ball in hand for the Force. Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images

Western Force playmakers Hamish Stewart and Bryce Hegarty will have the chance to get bragging rights over their former side when they line up in the Super Rugby Pacific encounter against the Queensland Reds.

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The Reds were left fuming when the Melbourne Rebels attempted to sign Stewart last year.

Queensland claimed they had a binding agreement with Stewart for 2023, and in the end it was the Force who swooped in to sign the talented 25-year-old.

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Stewart made 72 appearances for the Reds across six seasons, and he looms as a key cog in the Force’s rebuilt squad under new coach Simon Cron.

Hegarty spent three seasons at the Reds from 2019-21, and he has been entrusted with the No.10 jersey in Perth.

Stewart, who is also a noted five-eighth, played at inside centre in last week’s 34-27 win over Melbourne, and he will be in the No.12 jersey yet again when he takes on Queensland.

Cron feels the Hegarty-Stewart combination has good potential.

“I think that combination will only get stronger,” Cron said.

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The Reds were thrashed 47-13 by the Hurricanes last week, but they’ve been able to call on the Wallabies cavalry for Sunday’s match at AAMI Park.

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Co-captain Liam Wright returns from concussion, while Wallabies backs Suliasi Vunivalu, James O’Connor and Jock Campbell have been named for their first outing.

Cron is bracing for a strong showing from the Reds, and said it was a good chance for his players to test themselves against Wallaby talent.

“They’re Wallabies for a reason, but it gives our boys a chance to prove themselves, it gives our boys a chance to put their hands up,” Cron said.

“They (the Reds) will want to come with some physicality, so we’ve got to make sure we have a war at gain line time.

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“They’ve got some boys who are really quick on transition, so we’ve got to make sure we transition with a quick speed.”

Cron has named Jeremy Thrush in the starting side after the lock’s match-winning performance against the Rebels last week.

Thrush came out of retirement to play in the game, and he scored the winning try in the 72nd minute.

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