Force set to welcome back cavalry against Highlanders

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    The Western Force are set to be boosted by the return of a host of stars as the franchise plot their path towards becoming Australia’s sole representative in this year’s Super Rugby finals.

    The Force boosted their chances of winning the Australian conference by notching an upset 16-6 win last week over the Jaguares in Argentina.

    The Brumbies lead the Australian conference on 19 points, but the Force are just six points back and boast the luxury of having four of their final five games at home.

    The Force have been decimated by injuries all season, but the tide is about to turn.

    Veteran Matt Hodgson (ankle), winger Luke Morahan (fractured cheekbone) and Wallabies hooker Tatafu Polata-Nau (rested) are set to return for Saturday night’s home clash with the Highlanders at nib Stadium.

    And they could be joined by prop Jermaine Ainsley (dislocated elbow), lock Matt Philip (foot) and reserve halfback Michael Ruru (ankle).

    Skipper Ben McCalman has targeted next week’s away clash with Queensland for his return from an ongoing shoulder issue, while Wallabies utility back Dane Haylett-Petty (hamstring) is also closing in on a return in coming weeks.

    Prop Ben Daley (knee) and scrumhalf Ryan Louwrens (knee) won’t play again this season, but star winger Chance Peni is a chance to return after the June Test window bye.

    And even the Force’s off-field future appears brighter, with rumours the ARU is trying to buy the licence of the Melbourne Rebels so it can go ahead with plans of culling an Australian franchise.

    The Force had initially been expected to get the chop, but the Rebels now appear the more vulnerable.

    Four wins out of their last five games would probably be enough for the Force to top the Australian conference.

    But given how poorly Australian teams have fared this season, even three wins might get them there.

    Saturday’s Highlanders match will give the Force a strong indication of where they sit.

    The Highlanders are riding high after a franchise record seven-match winning run.

    After this week, the Force take on the Reds (away), Hurricanes (home), Rebels (home) and NSW Waratahs (home).

    The games against the Reds and Waratahs are particularly crucial given they are all fighting for the top conference spot.

    © AAP 2018

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    The Crowd Says (21)

    • May 17th 2017 @ 1:30am
      dontcallmeshirley said | May 17th 2017 @ 1:30am | ! Report

      This could actually end up quite a good game.

    • May 17th 2017 @ 9:37am
      wag said | May 17th 2017 @ 9:37am | ! Report

      GO THE FORCE ! The most gutsy of all of the Oz franchises ! No way should this team be culled, ARU !!
      (And, no, I am not a sand-groper!)

    • Roar Pro

      May 17th 2017 @ 12:50pm
      Crazy Horse said | May 17th 2017 @ 12:50pm | ! Report

      Here’s hoping all the “experts tip the Highlanders so they can join the long list of teams coming to Force Filed for easy points and slinking away defeated.

      • May 17th 2017 @ 1:49pm
        jameswm said | May 17th 2017 @ 1:49pm | ! Report

        I just hope an Aussie team can beat a Kiwi team. Don’t care which.

      • May 17th 2017 @ 2:54pm
        Perthstayer said | May 17th 2017 @ 2:54pm | ! Report

        Force are no longer underestimated. Highlanders know they have to play well to win.

        But decent set pieces, big guns and a good bench, it’s all about calm heads and sound execution for WF.

        • Roar Guru

          May 18th 2017 @ 11:03am
          Timbo (L) said | May 18th 2017 @ 11:03am | ! Report

          The Zoolanders are going to miss Waisaki Noholo, which will help…….a little.
          He is a powerhouse for them but I am sure another head of the hydra will pop up to replace him to help decimate the force back line.
          Rain forecast, it could well be a slippery game where most of it is played up front.

          • Roar Rookie

            May 18th 2017 @ 11:10am
            piru said | May 18th 2017 @ 11:10am | ! Report

            What’s up with Perth weather this year?

            It seems to rain whenever a team comes to town

            I blame the ARU

    • Roar Rookie

      May 17th 2017 @ 2:07pm
      piru said | May 17th 2017 @ 2:07pm | ! Report

      Lot of big names coming back, if we can travel to Buenos Aires and come back with a win against the Pumas we can do anything at home.

      Go get em boys!

    • May 17th 2017 @ 2:29pm
      bigbaz said | May 17th 2017 @ 2:29pm | ! Report

      they are getting a great list together, seem to have a good coach and look like they want to be there. Hope they stay and hope they continue to improve and given how dreadfull the rest of us are they may well be the vanguard for us in the next few years.

    • May 17th 2017 @ 2:34pm
      Perthstayer said | May 17th 2017 @ 2:34pm | ! Report

      Season defining game. Win and our fate is on our hands for 2nd place.

      Many handling errors vs Jags were nerves, pressure, and jet lag.

      More confidence from the win + big guns back (no jet lag) + Sea of Blue = Damn good chance of win

      Lets get ’em!!!

      • May 18th 2017 @ 6:44am
        shop said | May 18th 2017 @ 6:44am | ! Report

        The majority of the team will be tired from the end of a long tour and jet lag though. Highlanders will also be hit coming from SA. I’m hoping he Force can do it but it is still a big ask.

        • Roar Rookie

          May 18th 2017 @ 11:11am
          piru said | May 18th 2017 @ 11:11am | ! Report

          both teams will be tired, but the Force boys will have slept in their own beds the night before

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