Preview: Force v Waratahs

Date published: May 8 2015

An Australian derby between two sides in very different situations awaits on Saturday, when the Western Force play host to the Waratahs.

Things started so brightly for the Force when they triumphed in Sydney on the opening weekend, a taste that must have left fans hoping of another successful year after just missing out on the Super Rugby play-offs in 2014.

Instead though this season has been bleak so far, with the Force losing their last ten matches in the competition to find themselves languishing at the bottom of the table.

Only points difference separates the Force from the Reds with seven bonus points keeping Michael Foley's side out of 15th spot.

There's certainly been no faulting their work ethic, in fact the Force have made the most carries and won the most lineouts on their own ball in the league this year.

But a blatant lack of cutting edge has been their downfall, despite the presence of Nick Cummins on the wing and work-rate of full-back Dane Haylett-Petty.

Four losses by seven points or less prove that the Force are being competitve but the table doesn't lie, with an alarming 34 missed tackles against the Blues condemning the Western Australian outfit to a 41-24 loss.

Their recent record against the Waratahs though is strong, with two wins by 12 points or more in their last two meetings.

The champions haven't hit the heights of last season but have just won three matches in a row for the first time in 2015, even if they have been by narrow margins.

Last weekend's win in Canberra was a monumental achievement after four years without success in the Brumbies' backyard but now Michael Cheika will hope to use that victory as a springboard.

On their day the Waratahs still possess one of the best attacking backlines in the championship. With Adam Ashley-Cooper back fit and firing and the Force defence struggling last time out, they could rack up a big score.

The last time these teams met: An opening day stunner as the Force ran in four tries past the Waratahs for a 25-15 triumph. Rob Horne crossed twice for the champions but this was the Force's day and their only moment of joy this season.

Players to watch: One positive for Force this season has been the arrival of former Leicester Tigers second row Steve Mafi. The versatile forward has been a great weapon at the lineout and a potent threat with ball in hand, combining well with another prospect in Adam Coleman. Mafi will have his hands busy going up against Will Skelton and will hope to disrupt the 'Tahs lineout.

For the champions Israel Folau is threatening to turn in one of his all-dominant performances and Perth this weekend could be the time. It's no surprise to have seen Folau's time and space on the ball restricted after such a great campaign in 2014, but he can still break tackles and score tries as well as the best of them.

Team news: Adam Coleman returns for the Force this week as they look to put an end to their long losing streak. Solomoni Rasolea replaces Luke Burton at inside centre and he will link up with Kyle Godwin.

The Waratahs have made two changes to the side that beat the Brumbies last time out with Taqele Naiyaravoro starting against the Force. The powerful winger replaces Peter Betham in the line-up, with the Leicester-bound Wallaby named on the bench. Elsewhere Tolu Latu replaces Tatafu Polota-Nau as he takes a break due to the concussion problems that have plagued him over the past couple of seasons.

Form: As prevously mentioned, the Force have lost their last ten matches since defeating the Waratahs in Round 1. Only the Sharks and Cheetahs have conceded more points this year. Of the Force's seven bonus points this year, three have come for scoring four tries or more. Five wins from their last six meanwhile have pushed the Waratahs up into the wildcard spots, sitting in sixth and just one point behind the Brumbies in the Australia Conference.

Prediction: Even having won the last two over the Force, it seems unlikely that their losing run will come to a close on Saturday as the Waratahs look to make a statement. Waratahs by ten!

Previous results:

2015: Force won 25-13 in Sydney
2014: Force won 28-16 in Perth
2014: Waratahs won 43-21 in Sydney

2013: Waratahs won 28-13 in Perth

2013: Waratahs won 23-19 in Sydney

The teams:

Force: 15 Dane Haylett-Petty, 14 Luke Morahan, 13 Kyle Godwin, 12 Solomoni Rasolea, 11 Nick Cummins, 10 Sias Ebersohn, 9 Ryan Louwrens, 8 Ben McCalman, 7 Matt Hodgson (c), 6 Angus Cottrell, 5 Adam Coleman, 4 Steve Mafi, 3 Tetera Faulkner, 2 Nathan Charles, 1 Pekahou Cowan
Replacements: 16 Heath Tessmann, 17 Chris Heiberg, 18 Guy Millar, 19 Wilhelm Steenkamp, 20 Kane Koteka, 21 Alby Mathewson, 22 Luke Burton, 23 Marcel Brache

Waratahs: 15 Israel Folau, 14 Taqele Naiyaravoro, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Kurtley Beale, 11 Rob Horne, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Wycliff Palu, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Jacques Potgieter, 5 Dave Dennis (c), 4 Will Skelton, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Tolu Latu, 1 Benn Robinson. 
Replacements (one to be omitted): 16 Hugh Roach, 17 Jeremy Tilse, 18 Paddy Ryan, 19 Mitchell Chapman, 20 Tala Gray, 21 Pat McCutcheon, 22 Brendan McKibbin, 23 Matt Carraro, 24 Peter Betham

Date: Saturday, May 9
Venue: nib Stadium, Perth
Kick-off: 17:40 local (19:40 AEST, 21:40 NZST, 11:40 SAST)
Referee: Rohan Hoffmann
Assistant Referees: Andrew Lees, Matt O'Brien
TMO: Peter Marshall