Preview: Reds v Force

Date published: February 20 2015

Two Australian sides left in hugely different frames of mind collide at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday as the Reds play host to Western Force.

It was not pretty for the Queensland outfit last weekend in Canberra as they were given a royal hiding by the Brumbies. How they respond on home soil is going to be vital as back-to-back conference losses would heap the pressure on head coach Richard Graham. Karmichael Hunt's news won't have helped.

The Force meanwhile will be all smiles after beating the champions in their own back yard. Michael Foley is one leader who is enjoying his work and was even handed a contract extension along with his coaching staff before a ball was even kicked this season. Backing right there from the Force management.

If they can make it two from two before hosting the Hurricanes – a side making the long journey back from South Africa – early momentum is very much a possibility for the Perth side. And given recent meetings with the Reds, it's hard not to back the Force to build on last week. Yes, it's worth noting that the Reds haven't beaten the Force since back in 2012 which makes it all the more strange why they're favourites.

The last time these team met: Their first meeting of 2014 came in Round 8 when the Force claimed a 32-29 victory in Brisbane, thanks to tries from Ben McCalman, Luke Morahan and Jayden Hayward's late effort. Their second meeting of the year was in the penultimate regular-season round of the competition and Western Force came out on top once again, this time winning 30-20 at nib Stadium in Perth. Nick Cummins, McCalman and Nathan Charles were the scorers as the Reds' horror run against their Western Australian rivals continued for another campaign.

Players to watch: It has to be the pair coming into the side. James O'Connor and Adam Thomson have been brought in to lift the Reds and after missing last week's opener, all eyes will be on them to turn things around after that Canberra embarrassment. They possess international quality but it's a big ask to impress from the off in a new side. Expect spurts of brilliance but also tough moments.

On the opposite side, the Reds must be wary of Force scrum-half Alby Mathewson's threat around the fringes. The 'Tahs found out the hard way last week as his blend of speed and power combines wonderfully well with the likes of Ben McCalman and Chris Alcock.

Team news: Two alterations are made to the Reds starting side, with former All Blacks back-rower Thomson and Wallabies utility back O’Connor named to make their debuts for the franchise. Thomson will start at blindside, with Curtis Browning moving to the bench. O’Connor meanwhile has been named starting fly-half in the continued absence due to injury of Quade Cooper.

Meanwhile, loosehead prop Francois van Wyk will make his first appearance in a Force starting XV as he replaces the injured Pek Cowan. In their only other change to the side that beat the Waratahs in Sydney, Zack Holmes starts at full-back in the absence of Dane Haylett-Petty.

Prediction: The Force should be too strong up front while familiarity of combinations will also play a role on the day. Force by 5!

Previous results:

2014: Force won 30-20 in Perth
2014: Force won 32-29 in Brisbane
2013: 11-11 draw in Perth
2013: Force won 19-12 in Brisbane
2012: Force won 45-19 in Perth
2012: Reds won 35-20 in Brisbane

The teams:

Reds: 15 TBC, 14 Chris Kuridrani, 13 Chris Feauai-Sautia, 12 Samu Kerevi, 11 Lachie Turner, 10 James O’Connor, 9 Will Genia, 8 Jake Schatz, 7 Liam Gill, 6 Adam Thomson, 5 James Horwill 4 Marco Kotze, 3 Sam Talakai, 2 Saia Fainga’a, 1 James Slipper (c).
Replacements: 16 James Hanson, 17 Ben Daley, 18 Sef Faagase, 19 Tom Murday, 20 Curtis Browning, 21 Nick Frisby, 22 Sam Johnson, 23 Campbell Magnay.

Western Force: 15 Zack Holmes, 14 Luke Morahan, 13 Kyle Godwin, 12 Junior Rasolea, 11 Marcel Brache, 10 Sias Ebersohn, 9 Alby Mathewson, 8 Ben McCalman, 7 Chris Alcock, 6 Angus Cottrell, 5 Adam Coleman, 4 Sam Wykes (c), 3 Tetera Faulkner, 2 Nathan Charles, 1 Francois van Wyk.
Replacements: 16 Heath Tessmann, 17 Chris Heiberg, 18 Oliver Hoskins, 19 Steve Mafi, 20 Brynard Stander, 21 Ian Prior, 22 Luke Burton, 23 Mitchell Scott.

Date: Saturday, February 21
Kick-off: 18:40 local (08:40 GMT)
Venue: Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
Referee: Nick Briant (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Matt O'Brien (Australia), Damien Mitchelmore (Australia)
Television match official: George Ayoub (Australia)