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Preview: Waratahs v Western Force

21st February 2014 09:55

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Alby Mathewson Western Force v Waratahs 2013

Big derby: Waratahs v Force

The weekend's final match sees the Waratahs hosting the Western Force in what promises to be an exciting derby in Sydney on Sunday.

Both sides head into this match on the back of impressive performances in their pre-season matches. The Waratahs lost their first warm-up fixture narrowly against the Rebels before securing fine victories over the Blues and Highlanders.

The Force's pre-season programme saw them playing two matches and they won both convincingly over Samoa A and the Argentine Pampas.

After last year's indifferent form, Waratahs supporters expect a much better overall effort from their side and they will fancy their chances of making a positive start to the season against the Force, who they have beaten in eight of their 11 previous matches.

They should, however, not underestimate their opponents, who won two and drew one of the three remaining fixtures and interestingly all of those results came in Sydney.

The big talking point from the Waratahs camp is the selection of Wallabies stalwart Kurtley Beale at inside centre. As a full-back or fly-half, he is amongst the best in the business - especially on attack - but it will be interesting to see how he performs in his new role and how his battle with the Force's highly-rated midfielder Kyle Godwin pans out.

Much has also been made of the breakdown duel. Waratahs number eight Wycliff Palu has identified this as one of the Force's strengths and with Wallaby scavenger Michael Hooper in the homeside's ranks and Matt Hodgson - who has also represented Australia at international level - wearing the Force's number seven jersey, we can expect a spectacular battle for the loose ball.

This match will be a momentous occasion for the Force's former All Blacks scrum-half Alby Mathewson, who is playing in his 100th Super Rugby match.

Mathewson concedes that the Force will start the game as underdogs but he believes his side have the abiltiy to cause an upset, especially considering that they have won two and drawn one of their five matches against their hosts in Sydney.

"I guess the Western Force always goes under the radar but we've been plodding away in the pre-season, going really well and working really hard and there is a good buzz around the group," he told the Australian.

"We're assuming that's going to be the media's mindset. The Waratahs on the bench are going to be Wallabies, they've got so many over there. But we know what we can do as a group.

"We showed that towards the end of last year against the likes of the Crusaders (16-14) and Brumbies (21-15) and the Reds twice (beating them 19-12 at Suncorp and then drawing with them 11-11 in Perth)."

Prediction: There's plenty of hype in Australia about the Waratahs and their chances in this year's comeptition but although they should claim the win in their own backyard, it won't be easy. Waratahs to win by five points.

The teams:

Waratahs: 15 Israel Folau, 14 Alofa Alofa, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Kurtley Beale, 11 Peter Betham, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Wycliff Palu, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Dave Dennis, 5 Kane Douglas, 4 Will Skelton, 3 Paddy Ryan, 2 Tatafu Polota Nau, 1 Benn Robinson.
Replacements: 16 Tola Latu, 17 Jeremy Tilse, 18 Sekope Kepu, 19 Jacques Potgieter, 20 Stephen Hoiles/Pat McCutcheon, 21 Brendan McKibbin, 22 Rob Horne, 23 Matt Carraro/Cam Crawford.

Western Force: 15 Luke Morahan, 14 Marcel Brache/Patrick Dellit, 13 Junior Rasolea, 12 Kyle Godwin, 11 Nick Cummins, 10 Sias Ebersohn/Zack Holmes, 9 Alby Mathewson/Ian Prior, 8 Ben McCalman/Brynard Stander, 7 Matt Hodgson (c), 6 Chris Alcock/Angus Cottrell, 5 Hugh McMeniman/Wilhelm Steenkamp, 4 Sam Wykes, 3 Ollie Hoskins/Kieran Longbottom, 2 Nathan Charles/Heath Tessmann, 1 Pek Cowan/Tetera Faulkner
Replacements: TBC

Date: Sunday, February 23
Venue:
Allianz Stadium, Sydney
Kick-off: 16:05 (local, 05:05 GMT)
Referee: Rohan Hoffmann (Australia)
Assistant Referees: Matt O'Brien (Australia), Ed Martin (Australia)
TMO: George Ayoub (Australia)

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PosTeamPPts
1Waratahs1658
2Crusaders1651
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6Highlanders1642
7Hurricanes1641
8Western Force1640
9Bulls1638
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PosTeamPPts
1Waratahs1658
2Brumbies1645
3Western Force1640
4Reds1628
5Melbourne Rebels1621
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PosTeamPPts
1Crusaders1651
2Chiefs1644
3Highlanders1642
4Hurricanes1641
5Blues1637
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PosTeamPPts
1Sharks1650
2Bulls1638
3Stormers1632
4Lions1631
5Cheetahs1624