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They’re no longer a part of Super Rugby, but the Western Force will return to the field in 2018 just a year after being cut from the premier rugby competition in the southern hemisphere.
The Perth-based side will make their return in the new World Series Rugby (WSR) competition, which was launched today by Andrew Forrest.
While details are light in regards to the new tournament, it will comprise seven games later this year before evolving into a “fully-fledged international competition for the Asia Pacific region” in 2019, according to a statement released this afternoon.
The seven games will see the Force line up against a range of opposition – two Super Rugby franchises (the Rebels and Crusaders) and four international sides (Fiji, Tonga, Samoa and Hong Kong) with one opponent still to be confirmed.
“We have rebuilt the Western Force as we develop our tournament and we now have a wholly integrated community and high-performance club as the foundation of the future competition,” Forrest said.
“We have serious ambitions for this great team and for rugby in our region and intend to see these ambitions through, starting today with the launch of World Series Rugby.
“The focus for 2018 is to reintroduce and reinforce professional rugby in Western Australia for the benefits of our grassroots community, our players and our fans.
“In 2019 the WSR will evolve into a high-calibre, international competition with the goal of making rugby the community-building sport of Asia.”
The Force have put together a 23-man squad for the fixtures, which includes some notable names like Jaque Fourie, Ryan Louwrens and Fijian gold medallist Masivesi Dakuwaqa.
The first of the fixtures will be played in just 59 days, against Fiji on May 4, with the final match against a yet-to-be-confirmed opponent on August 17. The games against the Rebels and Crusaders, scheduled for June 9 and 22, fall in the Test window when Super Rugby is on a break. All games are set to be played at nib Stadium in Perth.
Force chief executive Nick Marvin called on rugby fans in Western Australia to get behind the re-launched team in their fixtures later in the year.
“The Force fans have been such a crucial factor in the club’s, and ultimately the sport’s, future in WA,” Marvin said.
“We want to show our gratitude by bringing them matches which will entertain, inspire and leave them on the edge of their seats.
“The best way West Australians can continue to show their support for the Western Force is to wear blue, get down to the seven home games and get behind their team.”
Western Force 2018 squad
AJ Alatimu, Chris Alcock, Marcel Brache, Masivesi Dakuwaqa, Rod Davies, Andrew Deegan, Tevin Ferris, Jaque Fourie, Josh Furno, Peter Grant, Chris Heiberg, Rodney Iona, Feleti Kaitu’u, Brad Lacey, Kieran Longbottom, Ryan Louwrens, Cameron Orr, Harrison Orr, Leon Power, Ian Prior, Harry Scoble, Tom Sheminant, Brynard Stander.
Western Force 2018 fixtures
May 4 vs Fiji
May 13 vs Tonga
June 9 vs Rebels
June 22 vs Crusaders
July 13 vs Samoa
August 10 vs Hong Kong
August 17 vs TBC