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Force call on cool heads to guide them through their grudge match with the side that probably should have been booted from Super Rugby

(Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)

For the fans it’s the ultimate grudge match, but Western Force players will do their best to keep emotions in check when they take on the Melbourne Rebels at Leichhardt Oval on Friday night.


Scores of Force fans are still filthy that their beloved franchise was axed from Super Rugby at the end of 2017 instead of the Rebels.

That decision was made despite billionaire mining magnate Andrew Forrest offering a package worth about $70 million to Rugby Australia to keep the Force in the competition.

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Western Force team announcement

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Western Force team announcement

The Force spent two years in the Global Rapid Rugby wilderness after Forrest’s deal was rejected, but they are now in Super Rugby ranks following the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Perth-based franchise are 0-3 in the new Australian competition, and were handed a reality check in last week’s 24-0 loss to the Brumbies.

Veteran prop Pek Cowan, skipper Ian Prior, flyhalf Jono Lance, and Marcel Brache are among the current players who experienced the Force axing in 2017.

Former All Blacks lock Jeremy Thrush said the player group wouldn’t let their emotions get the better of them.


“We’ve touched on it a little bit,” Thrush said.

“It is there and we all know the history behind all that, but we need to focus on what we need to do right, and get our mindset right.

There’s always emotion … there will be that there. But if we let that control us, we’ll probably make a fair few errors and let ourselves down.”

The Force have named their strongest squad of the season to date, with World Cup-winning All Black Richard Kahui and former Wallaby Godwin named as the new centre pairing.

“You’re after cool heads in big games and this is a big game for us,” Force coach Tim Sampson said.


“Through our backs, you go Nick Frisby, Lance, Kahui, Godwin, Brache on the wing – there’s great experience there.”

Foundation Force squad member Cowan has been named on the bench after serving his quarantine period and getting up to speed with the squad.

“He’s raring to go. He’s like a 20-year-old debutant,” Sampson said.

The Rebels have recalled Wallabies No.8 Isi Naisarani, but former Force star Dane Haylett-Petty has been ruled out for at least five weeks with a knee injury.

The Rebels have posted a win, a draw, and a loss from their three games.

– Justin Chadwick


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Mzilikazi 3 hours ago
Daugunu salvo shows why Wallabies work-rate is everything to Schmidt

Nice article, Brett, and good to be writing about a second win. I think Georgia will be far more testing. Tbh, I have not looked at their touring squad, but at full strength they are a far better and more dangerous team than they were at RWC France. They would have been disappointed they did not perform to full potential there. I think that the WB’s under Joe Schmidt have started soundly. Recovery from a serious setback always takes time. And the Jones era was that and more. I think the arrival of Les Kiss back to his native Qld. is a very positive factor, and the fact that he and Schmidt know each other well is a help. Players I think are much improved this year: Daugunu, who has blossomed with the Rebels, so credit to the coaching unit down there. Am pleased he will come back to the Reds. McReight is said to have put on up to 7 kgs since last season. His work rate has always been good, but it is his carrying into contact that has gone up. Now makes those critical one or two metres post contact very often. Is conceding fewer penalties now as his game matures. Rob Valetini was good last year, but is now a greater force this one. A really punishing ball carrier. Hunter Paisami is now a more controlled player. His carrying into contact is very impressive for an 80 kg man. Interestingly, if you saw Nick Bishops latest article, he has a team for RC with Kerevi at 12. Also Skelton in the team. Not sure if there will be o’seas players as early as RC though….but need them in by the EYOT games.

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