Force ready to make a 'strong statement'
TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: The Western Force finish their Super Rugby Trans-Tasman campaign this Saturday against the top of the table Blues at Eden Park in Auckland.
Following a strong performance against the Aotearoa champions the Crusaders last Friday, the Force will be looking to end the season with a statement win.
Head coach Tim Sampson has made three changes to the starting line-up, with a new backline pairing.
Captain Ian Prior, who made his 100th Super Rugby appearance last week, has been named at scrumhalf, with Jake McIntyre at flyhalf. Tomás Cubelli misses the match due to a toe injury sustained in Round Four (Trans-Tasman), with Domingo Miotti moving to the bench.
Fresh from scoring a try on his starting debut against the Crusaders, homegrown talent Ollie Callan maintains his starting spot at No.8.
Richard Kahui moves to the right wing, while English speedster Jordan Olowofela starts on the left wing in place of Toni Pulu, who suffered a foot injury in last week’s match.
Franchise stalwart Brynard Stander also moves into the matchday 23, with Tim Anstee ruled out after injuring his shoulder against the Crusaders.
Michael McDonald makes his long-awaited return from injury and is set to make his first Super Rugby appearance for the Force. The Palmyra junior will be joined on the bench by the returning Rob Kearney, who has passed the necessary concussion protocol tests.
Sampson is determined to end the Trans-Tasman season in the best way possible and is thrilled to have another local product in the squad.
“It’s great for Macca [Michael McDonald],” Sampson said.
“He’s had a long road to recovery, but he’s in great condition now.
“It’s another great story for us, he’s a young local player who has come through our pathway and he’ll get an opportunity to play against the Blues this Saturday.
“Prior and McIntyre will give us clear direction. They play well together and they can provide us with some strong direct footy.
“It’s about winning. What we’re looking for this weekend is a win to finish the competition.”
Western Force: 15 Jake Strachan, 14 Richard Kahui, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Kyle Godwin, 11 Jordan Olowofela, 10 Jake McIntyre, 9 Ian Prior (captain), 8 Ollie Callan, 7 Kane Koteka, 6 Fergus Lee-Warner, 5 Sitaleki Timani, 4 Jeremy Thrush, 3 Santiago Medrano, 2 Feleti Kaitu’u, 1 Tom Robertson.
Replacements: 16 Andrew Ready, 17 Angus Wagner, 18 Greg Holmes, 19 Ryan McCauley, 20 Brynard Stander, 21 Michael McDonald, 22 Domingo Miotti, 23 Rob Kearney.
Date: Saturday, June 12
Venue: Eden Park, Auckland
Kick-off: 19.05 (15.05 AWST; 07.05 GMT)
Referee: Ben O’Keeffe
Assistant referees: Paul Williams, Angus Mabey
TMO: Brendon Pickerill