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Preview: Western Force v Chiefs

21st March 2014 11:12

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Alby Mathewson W Force v Chiefs 2013

Showdown: Force v Chiefs

The in-form Western Force face a tough task on Saturday as they welcome the defending Super Rugby champions to nib Stadium.

The Force are a team enjoying rather a rich vein of form after two bonus point wins over the Rebels and the Highlanders cancelled out a disappointing opening Round defeat to the Brumbies.

Clinical in attack, the men from Perth edged out the inconsistent Otago side on the road last week, after thumping their Melbourne rivals 32-7.

It's easy to see why the tries have flowed for the Force this year, with the eccentric "Honey Badger", Nick Cummins, joined out wide by the incisive Luke Morahan on the opposite wing and Junior Rasolea in midfield. And alongside the reliable boot of South African fly-half, Sias Ebersohn, it's no surprise the points have racked up.

But Michael Foley's men have shipped their share of five-pointers, too. It was only by the width of a post that they withstood the Highlanders' comeback in Dunedin, and that was after the hosts had butchered numerous opportunities to cross the whitewash.

And while the Rebels' impotency left them struggling to break down the Force rearguard, the Brumbies breached that line with ease in Round One. The free-flowing Chiefs are certainly capable of similar devastation should they turn on the style.

Indiscipline is not the Force's strong suit either, and Wallaby Ben McCalman misses out this week after being cited for a dangerous tackle during last Round's win. Fellow Australian international Hugh McMenamin makes his return on the blindside flank, with Angus Cottrell moving to number eight.

Those are the only changes to last week's lineup, Foley opting to select an unchanged backline and set of replacements.

The Chiefs, meanwhile, retained their perfect record for the season last weekend with a thumping 38-20 win over the Stormers in Hamilton to match narrower victories against the Highlanders and Crusaders.

The defending champions have a brilliant gameplay resilience not unlike the All Blacks, which isn't surprising given how many Kiwi caps are in their squad. If they lose two tries, they will score three. If they lose three, they will score four.

In fact, when you take a look at the depth and the range of options Dave Rennie has at his disposal, it doesn't really seem like a fair fight. The Chiefs' three-from-three record has been chalked up with the men from Waikato scarcely breaking sweat; best take cover when they do hit their stride. And it's surely a case of if, not when.

This week, Rennie welcomes back All Black scavenger Sam Cane to the fray following his spell on the sidelines - hardly a bad man to bring in, and his addition makes for a terrifying back-row alongside Liam Messam and Liam Squire - and moves veteran Mils Muliaina to the wing.

Prediction: The Chiefs are too strong, they'll win by ten.

Force: 15 Jayden Hayward, 14 Luke Morahan, 13 Junior Rasolea, 12 Kyle Godwin, 11 Nick Cummins, 10 Sias Ebersohn, 9 Alby Mathewson, 8 Angus Cottrell, 7 Matt Hodgson (c), 6 Hugh McMeniman, 5 Wilhelm Steenkamp, 4 Sam Wykes, 3 Kieran Longbottom, 2 Nathan Charles, 1 Pek Cowan
Replacements: 16 Heath Tessmann, 17 Tetera Faulkner, 18 Ollie Hoskins, 19 Adam Coleman, 20 Brynard Stander, 21 Ian Prior, 22 Zack Holmes, 23 Marcel Brache.

Chiefs: 15 Gareth Anscombe, 14 Mils Muliaina, 13 Tim Nanai-Williams, 12 Tom Marshall, 11 Asaeli Tikoirotuma, 10 Aaron Cruden (c), 9 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 8 Liam Squire, 7 Sam Cane, 6 Liam Messam, 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Michael Fitzgerald, 3 Ben Tameifuna, 2 Mahonri Schwalger, 1 Jamie Mackintosh
Replacements: 16 Rhys Marshall, 17 Pauliasi Manu, 18 Josh Hohneck, 19 Kane Thompson, 20 Tanerau Latimer, 21 Augustine Pulu, 22 Andrew Horrell, 23 Anton Lienert-Brown

Date: Saturday, March 22
Kick-off: 19:00 local (11:00 GMT)
Venue: nib Stadium, Perth
Referee: Lourens van der Merwe (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Angus Gardner (Australia), Will Houston (Australia)
Television match official: Steve Leszczynski (Australia)

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1Waratahs1658
2Crusaders1651
3Sharks1650
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7Hurricanes1641
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1Waratahs1658
2Brumbies1645
3Western Force1640
4Reds1628
5Melbourne Rebels1621
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1Crusaders1651
2Chiefs1644
3Highlanders1642
4Hurricanes1641
5Blues1637
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PosTeamPPts
1Sharks1650
2Bulls1638
3Stormers1632
4Lions1631
5Cheetahs1624