Cowan back, Mafi starts for Force

Date published: February 26 2015

Loosehead prop Pek Cowan will return to the Western Force starting line-up to face the Hurricanes in Perth on Friday.

The game is the opening home match of the Force's tenth Super Rugby season.

Cowan was carried from the field in the club’s opening round match against the Waratahs in Sydney, with scans clearing him of any serious injury.

The match will be the 28-year-old’s 93rd for the Western Force – allowing him to surpass Nathan Sharpe (92 matches) as the second most-capped player for the club. Matt Hodgson (113 matches) remains the most-capped Western Force player.

Lock Steve Mafi receives his first opportunity in the starting XV after two strong performances from the bench, and will replace the injured Adam Coleman (hip) in the second row.

Dynamic back-rower Brynard Stander has also been provided with his first run-on start for 2015, and will start at openside flanker in place of the injured pairing of Matt Hodgson (hamstring) and Chris Alcock (ankle).

In the backline, Zack Holmes will shift from fullback to flyhalf, allowing Luke Burton to start in the ‘15’ jersey.

The Force reserves list sees Future Force flanker Kane Koteka in line to make his Super Rugby debut, while Rory Walton returns to the match day 23 for the first time since Round 17 in 2013.

Western Force Head Coach Michael Foley says his side is looking forward to playing its first match of the season on home soil.

"We look forward to every game we play at home in front of our passionate supporters," he said.

"It’s pleasing to have Pek return to the squad, as Friday marks another milestone in his career becoming the second most-capped player in the club’s history.

"It also represents an excellent opportunity for both Steve [Mafi] and Kane [Koteka] in their starting and Super Rugby debuts respectively.

"Steve’s hard work through pre-season has shown in the impact he’s had in the opening two games and Kane has earned a lot of respect through his performances in NRC and this season’s trials."

Western Force: 15 Luke Burton, 14 Luke Morahan, 13 Kyle Godwin, 12 Solomoni Jnr Rasolea, 11 Marcel Brache, 10 Zack Holmes, 9 Alby Mathewson, 8 Ben McCalman, 7 Brynard Stander, 6 Angus Cottrell, 5 Steve Mafi, 4 Sam Wykes (c), 3 Tetera Faulkner, 2 Nathan Charles, 1 Pekahou Cowan
Replacements:  16 Heath Tessmann, 17 Chris Heiberg, 18 Oliver Hoskins, 19 Rory Walton, 20 Kane Koteka, 21 Ian Prior, 22 Sias Ebersohn, 23 Mitchell Scott

Date: Friday, February 27
Venue: nib Stadium, Perth
Kick-off:  19:00 local (11:00 GMT)
Referee: Marius van der Westhuizen (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Angus Gardner (Australia), Graham Cooper (Australia)
TMO:  George Ayoub (Australia)