Irish star returns for full-strength Force
TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: With a place in the Super Rugby AU finals on the line, the Western Force have named a powerful squad to take on the undefeated Queensland Reds for the Anzac Round match this Friday at HBF Park.
Head coach Tim Sampson has named three changes to the squad, with two notable inclusions making a return from injury.
Irish superstar Rob Kearney is back after recovering from an adductor injury in a massive boost for the Force. Jack McGregor remains in the matchday 23 following strong performances at fullback in Kearney’s absence.
Speedster Toni Pulu also makes his first start since sustaining a hamstring injury in the Round 4 clash with the Melbourne Rebels. The wing starts in place of Richard Kahui at 14.
Former Wallabies prop Greg Holmes starts at tighthead following a crucial second half performance in last week’s memorable victory over the NSW Waratahs, with Santiago Medrano moving to the bench.
The dynamic Argentinian halves duo of Tomás Cubelli and Domingo Miotti remains in place for the third consecutive game after playing key roles in the Force’s back-to-back wins, including Miotti’s game-winning penalty goal after the siren against the Waratahs.
Sampson and his side will be looking to secure their third consecutive win and first Super Rugby AU finals berth.
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“I think the squad is oozing confidence after showing great character with how we’ve won those last two games,” Sampson explained.
“Rob’s a big inclusion for us with his experience and game management. Toni adds that point of difference for us, he’s quick and explosive. It’s fantastic to have Greg starting this week. He’s a huge asset for us and he scrummaged really well against the Reds in our last match against them earlier in the season.
“The Sea of Blue is a noisy crowd, and it was a great atmosphere at HBF Park last Saturday, so we’re hoping for that again this Friday because they do add important energy that the players draw in key moments of the game.”
Western Force: 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Toni Pulu, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Kyle Godwin (captain), 11 Jordan Olowofela, 10 Domingo Miotti, 9 Tomás Cubelli, 8 Brynard Stander, 7 Kane Koteka, 6 Tim Anstee, 5 Sitaleki Timani, 4 Jeremy Thrush, 3 Greg Holmes, 2 Feleti Kaitu’u, 1 Tom Robertson,
Replacements: 16 Andrew Ready, 17 Angus Wagner, 18 Santiago Medrano, 19 Ryan McCauley, 20 Fergus Lee-Warner, 21 Ian Prior, 22 Richard Kahui, 23 Jack McGregor
Date: Friday, April 23
Venue: HBF Park, Perth
Kick-off: 17.45 (15.45 AWST, 09.45 GMT)
Referee: Damon Murphy
Assistant referees: Graham Cooper & Reuben Keane
TMO: Brett Cronan