Returning Jono Lance has secured the starting fly-half position as the Western Force release their matchday 23 for their first hit-out in the Vodaphone Super Rugby AU competition against the Waratahs in Sydney.
The Force have said they want to rely on continuity and experience coming up against the Tahs this Saturday, hoping a more practised playing group will serve them better playing away at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG).
The full playing side named by coach Tim Sampson includes 18 of the players who featured in the club’s 54-15 rout of the Malaysia Valke in a Global Rapid Rugby clash on March 14.
“Consistency and continuity will be very important given it is our first Super Rugby game in a few years,” said Sampson.
“We have several players who have performed consistently well for us and have played at this level before. The selection has a very good balance from 1 to 23 in terms of experience.”
Since the Valke clash Sampson has made four changes to the run-on XV opting the boost the Super Rugby experience within the side slotting in Lance and former All Blacks lock Jeremy Thrush.
Returning in Force colours, Lance will start at flyhalf in the place of AJ Alatimu. Having 66 previous Super Rugby caps and two Super Rugby titles to his name Lance played a key role for the Reds in 2011 as well as the Waratahs in 2014. Lance also spent past three seasons with the Worcester Warriors in England before announcing his return back to Perth.
“Jono has looked after himself really well, he is in good nick. Having that experience in a number 10 jersey is crucial for us, especially in our first game to make sure we start well. He will show good leadership there and provide good game management for us,” Sampson explained.
Thrush, whose Super Rugby pedigree includes more than 100 caps for the Hurricanes, has been promoted to the starting line-up sliding Johan Bardoul to the bench. Thrush is expected to add a physical edge to the Force’s forwarded pack being well known around both Australian and New Zealand rugby for his unrelenting style of play.
Other changes to the starting XV include the promotion of local flanker and Nedlands Rugby Club prodigy Tevin Ferris from the bench, replacing the retired Chris Alcock.
Yet the another born and bred WA player will move into the starting inside centre position in the form of Cottesloe’s Nick Jooste, taking the place of Samoan international Henry Taefu who will start the game on the bench.
Amongst the reserves, New signing Greg Holmes has been included in place of Tom Sheminant. The former Wallaby prop is a veteran of Super Rugby with 144 caps playing previously with the Queensland Reds. This will be Holmes first match after leaving the Exeter Chiefs having played two seasons with the English Premiership Side.
“Greg can make a huge impact coming off the bench. He is passing on his experience to other players as well, which is good for the team as a whole,” Sampson said.
Associates centre Kyle Godwin will line up with Jake Strachan in the reserve backs, Godwin who returned West after two seasons with Irish side Connacht will look to impress finally back playing in his hometown colours.
Wanneroo flanker and talented youngster Ollie Callan will round out the reserves, coming through the RugbyWA Senior Academy under the guise of head coach Steve Anderson the WA local has been selected as loose-forward cover of the opening match.
“We have included a few of the new signings on the bench for this first outing as we have to be very careful how we manage their workload, given they have been in quarantine for some time. There are also a number of Force youngsters who will be getting their first taste of rugby at this level, which will be a great experience for them,” Sampson said.
The Force will play their first match in round two of the Vodapohone Super Rugby Competition lining up against the NSW Waratahs on Saturday July 11, 5:15pm AWST, SCG, LIVE on Foxtel, Foxtel Now and Kayo Sports
Force to play Waratahs
1. Angus Wagner
2. Feleti Kaitu’u
3. Kieran Longbottom
4. Jeremy Thrush
5. Fergus Lee Warner
6. Henry Stowers
7. Tevin Ferris
8. Brynard Stander
9. Ian Prior
10. Jono Lance
11. Brad Lacey
12. Nick Jooste
13. Marcel Brache
14. Byron Ralston
15. Jack McGregor
16. Andrew Ready
17. Chris Heiberg
18. Greg Holmes
19. Johan Bardoul
20. Ollie Callan
21. Jacob Abel
22. Henry Taefu
23. Kyle Godwin