Preview: Western Force v Reds

Date published: May 29 2015

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There will be more than pride at stake when the Western Force host the Reds in a bottom-of-the-table clash in Perth on Saturday.

With just two points separating these sides in the standings, the 14th-placed Reds know a loss to their hosts will have dire consequences as they will then trade places with the Force and occupy the bottom place on the table with just two rounds of matches left after this weekend.

Although both these sides are just going through the motions as the season draws to a close, they know that securing victory in a derby will also earn them bragging rights and could ultimately mean that they avoid the wooden spoon in the Australian Conference.

With these teams occupying positions at the bottom of the table, it's little surprise that they are also faring poorly in some of the tournament's statistics.

The Force – along with the Stormers – have scored the fewest tries so far this season (24) while the Reds are second from bottom in this department with 27.

Michael Foley's troops are also the side who have made the least clean breaks in the tournament (66) and the Reds have gained the fourth-least metres on attack (4839) in 2015.

Despite their poor form throughout the season, Force lock Adam Coleman said they were determined to finish the season on a high.

“There’s still motivation, we want to finish on a good note,” he said.

“We’ve been challenging each other physically and mentally during our prep. There’s definitely a bit of feeling in the game.

“Something we’ve talked a lot about this week is finishing opportunities and capitalising on that. We want to convert in our gold zone.”

The last time these teams met: The Reds bounced back from a humiliating 47-3 loss in their season opener to the Brumbies with an 18-6 victory over the Force, who were brought crashing down to earth after they beat the Waratahs in Sydney the previous week. Lachie Turner was the Reds' hero as he contributed 13 points via a try, two penalties and a conversion with their only other points registered through a penalty try. Sias Ebersohn kicked two penalties for the Force.

Players to watch: Wallaby number eight Ben McCalman is a key player for the Force as he is expected to get them over the gainline with his ball-carrying ability. McCalman enjoys the physical aspect of the game and if he builds up a head of steam with ball in hand the Force should get some momentum.

Reds fly-half Quade Cooper is back for the Brisbane-based outfit after a two-month injury lay-off. Cooper is one of the game's best playmakers and will be expected to get the best out of his outside backs, who have been inconsistent throughout the season, as the Reds long-serving number ten begins his final run of matches for the side before making his anticipated move to France.

Team news: Western Force boss Michael Foley has named an unchanged 23-man squad for this clash – it's the first time since Round 12 last year that the Force have named an unchanged matchday 23.

Apart from Cooper's return for Jake McIntyre, Lachie Turner is also back from injury to take his place on the wing, with Chris Kuridrani ruled out with a calf strain in the only other change to the Reds' run-on side. Flanker Beau Robinson will feature in his first matchday squad of the 2015 season, after tearing his calf in the pre-season.

Form: After their win over the Waratahs in the opening round, the Force only returned to the victory trail in Round 13 when they beat the defending champions in the return match in Perth. They had a bye in the next round before losing to the Highlanders at home last weekend. The Reds registered their best result of the season two weeks ago when they claimed a 46-29 victory over the Melbourne Rebels in Brisbane, but then suffered a 21-14 loss to the Sharks at the same venue last weekend.

Prediction: With both sides struggling at the foot of the table, don't be surprised if this isn't a high-scoring affair. The Force however will be hard to beat in their own backyard. Force to win by six points!

Previous results:

2015: Reds won 18-6 in Brisbane
2014: Force won 30-20 in Perth
2014: Force won 32-29 in Brisbane
2013: 11-11 draw in Perth

The teams:

Western Force: 15 Dane Haylett-Petty, 14 Luke Morahan, 13 Marcel Brache, 12 Kyle Godwin, 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 Sam Wykes, 20 Kane Koteka, 21 Alby Mathewson, 22 Luke Burton, 23 Patrick Dellit

Reds: 15 James O’Connor, 14 Chris Feauai-Sautia, 13 Karmichael Hunt, 12 Samu Kerevi, 11 Lachie Turner, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia, 8 Jake Schatz, 7 Liam Gill, 6 Adam Thomson, 5 James Horwill, 4 Rob Simmons, 3 Greg Holmes, 2 James Hanson, 1 James Slipper (c).
Replacements (one to be omitted): Andrew Ready, Pettowa Paraka, Sam Talakai, Ed O’Donoghue, Beau Robinson, Nick Frisby, Jake McIntyre, Ben Tapuai , Jamie-Jerry Taulagi.

Date: Saturday, May 30
Venue: nib Stadium, Perth
Kick-off: 17:40 local (09:40 GMT, 19:40 AEST, 21:40 NZST, 11:40 SAST)
Referee: Matt O'Brien
Assistant Referees: Damien Mitchelmore, Michael Hogan
TMO: Peter Marshall

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