Force change it up for Trans-Tasman trip
TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: The Western Force continue to prepare for its first away fixture of the Super Rugby Trans-Tasman season against the Hurricanes in Napier at McLean Park on Friday.
Coach Tim Sampson has named a strong matchday 23, with four changes made to the starting 15.
Hooker Andrew Ready makes his first start of the campaign, with Feleti Kaitu’u moving the bench.
All Black Jeremy Thrush returns to the side after a minor injury ruled him out of the Highlanders game last Friday.
The experienced lock will face his former side on the Super Rugby stage for the first time since moving to the Force.
Argentinean Domingo Miotti starts at flyhalf alongside compatriot Tomás Cubelli, with Jake McIntyre having suffered a concussion in the Round Two match with the Highlanders.
Toni Pulu will be celebrating a milestone as he makes his return to the side, with the winger having served his suspension. Pulu starts at 14 in his 50th Super Rugby appearance, with English speedster Jordan Olowofela at No.11 and Richard Kahui moving to No.13.
Wallaby Tevita Kuridrani is also back in the matchday 23.
The centre is named on the bench alongside Jack McGregor, with the back returning to the squad.
Sampson said the squad is embracing the road trip and the challenge the Hurricanes present.
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“We’re in a great place here in Napier. Hawke’s Bay Rugby Club have been very welcoming, and it feels like home,” Sampson explained.
“Toni provides the spark for us. He’s full of energy and he’s raring to go. Tevita is itching to get back. He’s a player that has played a lot of rugby over here against New Zealand and provides impact off the bench.
“Having that experience coming on at the back end of the game is going to be important for us.
“The Hurricanes are a well-rounded team with a lot of strike power. If we apply pressure defensively in certain areas, then we’re positive about controlling the game. We’ve prepared well and we’re looking forward to Friday.”
Western Force: 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Toni Pulu, 13 Richard Kahui, 12 Kyle Godwin (captain), 11 Jordan Olowofela, 10 Domingo Miotti, 9 Tomás Cubelli, 8 Tim Anstee, 7 Kane Koteka, 6 Fergus Lee-Warner, 5 Sitaleki Timani, 4 Jeremy Thrush, 3 Santiago Medrano, 2 Andrew Ready, 1 Tom Robertson.
Replacements: 16 Feleti Kaitu’u, 17 Angus Wagner, 18 Greg Holmes, 19 Ryan McCauley, 20 Brynard Stander, 21 Ian Prior, 22 Jack McGregor, 23 Tevita Kuridrani.
Date: Friday, May 28
Venue: McLean Park, Napier
Kick-off: 19.05 (15.05 Australian Western Time; 07.05 GMT)
Referee: James Doleman
Assistant referees: Ben O’Keeffe, Brendon Pickerill
TMO: Mike Fraser