Three changes from Western Force

Date published: April 5 2013

Western Force have made three changes to their starting line-up that will face Australian rivals Melbourne Rebels in Perth on Saturday.

The Force have made three changes to their starting line-up that will face Australian rivals Melbourne Rebels at nib Stadium in Perth on Saturday.

Flanker Angus Cottrell and full-back Will Tupou return to the side, while prop Kieran Longbottom replaces Pek Cowan in the starting front-row after a strong performance off the bench against the Waratahs. Coincidentally, Saturday's match will be Longbottom's first run-on appearance since Round 5, 2012.

Cottrell returns to the blindside flank with Ben McCalman shifting to the back of the scrum in place of Richard Brown.

Both Brown and Cowan have been rested after playing the bulk of time in the opening six matches.

In the backline, Tupou resumes his place at fullback with Alfie Mafi returning to his more customary position on the wing.

The match is set to mark Emirates Western Force lock Sam Wykes' 50th Super Rugby cap for the province having made his debut as a 19-year-old against the Cheetahs in Week Two of the 2008 Super 14 competition. Wykes, who has played all but one match for the Force this season after missing the bulk of 2012 with hamstring, ankle and knee injuries, will start from the bench and will be joined by prop Tetera Faulkner and scrum-half Mick Snowden, who have both been reinstated on the Western Australian reserves list.

Western Force Head Coach Michael Foley says his side is looking to turn around the result from the two sides' season opener.

“This is a group with tremendous character that has taken big strides towards becoming the team we aspire to be,” he said.

“We've realised significant improvement in our defence shown by conceding just two tries in the past three matches. We're also creating opportunities with ball in hand. The challenge for us is to ensure we're patient to convert more of those opportunities into points.

“This week marks an important milestone for Sam [Wykes]. He's been an excellent performer for the club over a number of years, he's someone who has the respect of his teammates, and they'll be doing everything they can to make it a memorable occasion for him on Saturday.”

Western Force: 15 Will Tupou, 14 Patrick Dellit, 13 Winston Stanley, 12 Kyle Godwin, 11 Alfie Mafi, 10 Sias Ebersohn, 9 Alby Mathewson, 8 Ben McCalman , 7 Matt Hodgson (c), 6 Angus Cottrell, 5 Hugh McMeniman, 4 Toby Lynn , 3 Salesi Ma'afu, 2 Heath Tessmann, 1 Kieran Longbottom.
Replacements: 16 Ben Whittaker, 17 Tetera Faulkner, 18 Sam Wykes, 19 Chris Alcock, 20 Mick Snowden, 21 Sam Christie, 22 Sam Norton-Knight.

Date: Saturday, 6 April
Venue: nib Stadium, Perth
Kick-off: 19:40 local (09:40 BST, 08:40 GMT)
Referee: Mike Fraser (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Rohan Hoffman (Australia), James Leckie (Australia)
Television match official: Matt Goddard (Australia)