Planet Rugby

Preview: Force v Brumbies

27th February 2014 15:47

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scott fardy hugh mcmeniman force brumbies

Lineout duel: Fardy and McMeniman

Thrashed in their season opener against the Waratahs, the Force will look to bounce back at home to the visiting Brumbies this Saturday.

Scoring 21 points would be considered an achievement in Europe, but the Force let in six very soft tries away in Sydney to get their season off to shaky start.

And that's a shame, because if they can just begin to work together as a collective on the defensive side of the ball and commit themselves to missing less tackles, then the Force wouldn't be shy of causing upsets in 2014.

There are diamonds in the backline. Luke Morahan scored many a blockbuster try during his time in Queensland and has now been handed the keys to roam free at full-back. Kyle Godwin was one of the breakout Australian players of last season, and that's saying a lot when you consider the achievements of Leali'ifano, Speight, Tomane and Fardy.

Then of course there's Nick Cummins. The Honey Badger's loyalty to the Force is admirable but just imagine what he could achieve at the Brumbies or Reds, or even over in Europe - where he will surely finish up after the next Rugby World Cup.

It's up to the Force's pack to set the tone. Hugh McMeniman, Ben McCalman and Matt Hodgson are no strangers to this level now, while Sam Wykes and Chris Alcock certainly have talent.

There just isn't enough collective spark though to seriously compete in the Australian Conference, let alone the competition, unless they can defend with enough effort and intelligence.

Their set-piece work seems steady enough, and that's great, but can they really take scalps like the Brumbies? Against the big carriers of the Waratahs, the Force just didn't appear to have enough size to compete. Now that's a worry.

Particularly when you take in the Brumbies group of forwards. Led by example through Stephen Moore, guys like Scott Fardy, Sam Carter, Ben Mowen and David Pocock all make metres and are intensely physical. That's with Fotu Auelua out injured.

Monday's review will have been tough on the Brumbies, who appeared to throw literally everything at the Reds in the dying stages last Saturday but couldn't get the job done, and at home as well.

That's a concern for a side that's looking to get back to the Super Rugby Final following last year's agony. Sure, the margin was only two points, but on the flipside of what was a big psychological boost for the Reds, the Brumbies will have no doubt been asking questions about where they want to go this season and know that those tight matches are fundamental.

Laurie Fisher and Stephen Larkham, the promoted coaching contingent, could do with a settling victory here in Perth and will be boosted by the return of Wallabies outside centre Tevita Kuridrani, who partners Pat McCabe in midfield.

Losing Joe Tomane is a pity as the afro'd Wallaby looked sharp against the Reds, but Speight on the opposite flank has enough fire in his feet to keep the Force guessing.

The front-row of Sio, Moore and Ben Alexander have a little bit to prove too after being outdone by the Reds during key scrums last weekend and should expect dominance upfront, with Pocock flourishing at the breakdown.

Prediction: If the Brumbies get enough front-foot ball, then this could get ugly, because the Force simply have to shore up the gaps and be more clicked on than last weekend. Brumbies by ten.

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

Brumbies: 15 Jesse Mogg, 14 Henry Speight, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Pat McCabe, 11 Robbie Coleman, 10 Matt Toomua, 9 Nic White, 8 Jarrad Butler, 7 David Pocock, 6 Ben Mowen, 5 Sam Carter, 4 Scott Fardy, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 Scott Sio
Replacements:16 Siliva Siliva, 17 Ruaidhri Murphy, 18 Ruan Smith, 19 Leon Power, 20 Lachlan McCaffrey, 21 Conrad Hoffmann, 22 Andrew Smith, 23 Lionel Cronje

Date: Saturday, March 1
Venue: nib Stadium, Perth
Kick-off: 19:00 local (11:00 GMT)
Referee: Nick Briant (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Angus Gardner (Australia), Ian Smith (Australia)
Television match official: Steve Leszczynski (Australia)

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