Western Force coach Richard Graham says his pack is as strong as any in Super Rugby and the Perth-based franchise boasts it’s deepest ever squad. About to embark on their seventh season, the Force are still to make their finals debut.
The Force finished 12th in 2011 with just five wins, but Graham pointed out they led after 65 minutes in 11 of their 16 games.
He attributed their inability to close out games to lack of experience, not poor conditioning.
Both Graham and openside flanker David Pocock, who has replaced legendary lock Nathan Sharpe as Force captain, recognised the need for their team to reward the patient Perth public.
“For the game to move forward in WA, we need to win,” Graham said.
Pocock said the Force expected a lot more of themselves this year and made it clear what would constitute a successful season.
“We haven’t contested finals yet, so that’s our aim,” Pocock said.
The pundits are yet to jump aboard the Force bandwagon this year, especially following the departures of key playmakers James O’Connor and Willie Ripia.
While question marks linger over the backline, Graham is bullish about the forward artillery he has at his disposal.
The recruitment of Test prop Salesi Ma’afu adds further grunt to a pack already including Wallabies Nathan Sharpe, David Pocock, Richard Brown, Ben McCalman, Matt Hodgson and Pek Cowan.
“Our forward pack is as strong as any forward pack in Super Rugby and it’s that foundation which allows you to win games,” Graham told AAP at the Super Rugby season launch in Sydney on Thursday.
“We’ve obviously got a lot of confidence in the work that they will do for us.
“I think people still need to understand that we’re only six years old.
“There were no concessions when we began. We began off our own back and a lot of hard work by the good people of WA.
“I think now you’re starting to see the squad being the strongest and the most depth that we’ve ever had.
“Should we have injuries, I think we’ve got enough cover to assist us.”
With Ripia and O’Connor gone, former halfback James Stannard is earmarked as the new five-eighth with Sydney club product Ben Seymour his backup.
“They’ve put in a lot of work up to this point, so now it’s a great opportunity for them to step up and play well at Super Rugby level,” Graham said.