Former All Blacks lock Jeremy Thrush believes the Western Force’s raft of youngsters will blossom in Australia’s new domestic rugby competition.
The Force will enter Super Rugby AU with the most inexperienced squad and they are the hot early favourites to take out the wooden spoon.
Thrush is well placed to judge the Force’s youngsters after joining the franchise two years ago to play in Andrew Forrest’s Global Rapid Rugby.
The 35-year-old, who played 12 tests for the All Blacks and 110 Super Rugby games for the Hurricanes, didn’t want to single out any individuals for praise, fearing it would heap too much pressure on them.
But he’s confident the team’s batch of youngsters will thrive on the big stage.
“There’s a few players that have come over here in the last couple of years that might not have got a chance in their state, or were looked over and slipped by,” Thrush said.
“They’ve learnt how to be more of a professional rugby player within our environment at the Force and they’ve just grown.
“They’ve blossomed into some pretty tidy footballers. That’s probably one of the biggest things I’m excited about – letting them get the exposure at that next level to know that they can do it and I know they can do it.
“They just need that chance to go out there and have a crack.”
Lock Ben Grant, scrumhalf Jacob Abel, prop Victor Harris, lock Jackson Pugh, prop Angus Wagner and flyhalf Nick Jooste are among the emerging players who will be keen to make their mark.
The arrival of Kyle Godwin, Jono Lance and Greg Holmes has added class and experience to the youthful Force squad.
But the odds are still well and truly stacked against the Force, not that Thrush is paying much attention to the dire predictions.
“We’re not here just to be invited to make up numbers so that there’s an extra game on TV,” Thrush said.
“We’re here to push ourselves and compete to win.”
The Force have a bye in round one, before opening their campaign against the Waratahs in Sydney on July 11.
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