Planet Rugby

Preview: Brumbies v Western Force

16th April 2011 11:27


force v brumbies

Nathan Sharpe: Rallies his troops

The Western Force head into Sunday's Super Rugby clash with the Brumbies amid ongoing media speculation regarding the playing future of star player James O'Connor.

It has been rumoured that the young Wallaby is poised to announce a deal with the Melbourne Rebels on Monday.

However, Force captain Nathan Sharpe has dispelled any notion regarding the playing future of O'Connor has does anything to shift the focus away from a critical match against the Brumbies.

Sharpe said the whole squad, including the exciting youngster, had a single purpose to ensure the club's season gets back on track.

"For us as a team it hasn't been a huge worry, I'm sure James has got some issues going on but he is a quality footballer and he is going to be able to deal with those," Sharpe said.

"As team-mates you chat about those sorts of things (contracts) but at the end of the day he has to make his own decision and he'll do that. We'll focus on our rugby and he'll focus on playing well for us.

"Contract negotiations during a season are nothing new they've been going on for years and years so players are pretty adept at dealing with them.

"I don't think it affects the way you play, you prepare to play well on the weekend and generally guys are good at compartmentalising things and can put those other things away."

Sunday's match will be the third consecutive local derby for the Western Force who will be hoping to repeat the result of their last visit to Canberra where they enjoyed a nine-point win in 2009.

The Brumbies are coming off a less than convincing one-point victory over the Hurricanes, which should give them some confidence over a struggling Force side that was comprehensively smashed by the Waratahs last week.

The game offers a chance for both teams to gain their maiden win over Australian opposition in season 2011.

"We're at the halfway point of the season and each game you lose makes the next one more important," said Sharpe.

"In the context of the season this game is significant but it is also important on a personal level. The guys have invested a lot of time preparing and take a lot of pride in that.

"We didn't play well last weekend and when you don't get the results you want the next game can't come quick enough. We are working hard and looking to get some satisfaction from our efforts for the club, supporters and ourselves."

Prediction: Too many off-field distractions may come back to haunt the Force. Brumbies by 10.

The teams:

Brumbies: 15 Matt Toomua, 14 Pat McCabe, 13 Andrew Smith, 12 Christian Lealiifano, 11 Francis Fainifo, 10 Matt Giteau (c), 9 Josh Valentine, 8 Ita Vaea, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Peter Kimlin, 5 Mark Chisholm, 4 Ben Hand, 3 Dan Palmer, 2 Anthony Hegarty, 1 Ben Alexander.
Replacements:16 Elvis Levi, 17 Salesi Ma'afu, 18 Colby Faingaa, 19 Julian Salvi, 20 Patrick Phibbs, 21 Tyrone Smith, 22 Adam Ashley-Cooper.

Western Force: 15 Pat Dellit, 14 Nick Cummins, 13 Rory Sidey, 12 James O'Connor, 11 David Smith, 10 Willie Ripia, 9 Brett Sheehan, 8 Ben McCalman, 7 Jono Jenkins, 6 Richard Brown, 5 Nathan Sharpe (c), 4 Sam Wykes, 3 Tim Fairbrother, 2 Ben Whittaker, 1 Kieran Longbottom
Replacements: 16 Nathan Charles, 17 Pek Cowan, 18 Tom Hockings, 19 Tevita Metuisela, 20 James Stannard, 21 Gene Fairbanks, 22 Alfie Mafi.

Date: Sunday, 17 April
Venue: Canberra Stadium, Canberra
Kick-off: 14.10 (06.10 GMT)
Referee: Keith Brown (New Zealand)

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