It’s official! Western Force are back in Super Rugby… sort of.
The competition is actually called Super Rugby AU and the competition is still awaiting confirmation about whether the Sunwolves will be attending the party, making it Super Rugby AU(J).
On a quick side note, wouldn’t it have been better, particularly given that at the time of the announcement it is National Reconciliation Week, to call it Super Rugby Welcome to Country? Franchises could have then looked to engage with sections of the public that don’t traditionally look at rugby union.
Anyway, welcome back Western Force. We were wrong to ask you to leave but let’s let bygones be bygones. The team from WA has grown in popularity since its slow expulsion from Super Rugby, and the need for rugby union to retain a significant presence in the west is vital, particularly with AFL and NRL continually looking to grow in the outpost.
Seeing the light-blue jerseys returning to regular action against other franchises will be a welcome sight and one that should be fully embraced by the Australian rugby community.
There will be plenty of comments and arguments that there isn’t sufficient player depth to have five competitive teams at the top level, and maybe they’re right.
But you can’t just neglect a massive section of the country because you don’t deem them worthy. The Force need support, and if Twiggy wants to continue ploughing his money into the organisation, then let him. Just put in place some measures to ensure Australian players remain at the core of the offering.
Regardless of how the Sunwolves fall after their game of hokey pokey, the opportunity to see potentially five Australians facing off against each other to ultimately prove that they deserve to be in Dave Rennie’s Wallabies squad is massive.
Take the ten shirt, for example. Whichever one of the many candidates can guide their team with the greatest level of poise and control could end up starting the first international game under Dave Rennie (whenever that is).
The Force may not have the biggest names or the most likely candidates for Wallabies jerseys, but they can add some nice depth in a number of positions and a shot a redemption for a number of players that previously have been deemed wanting at the top level.
The presence of the Force at the top table can also act as a viable alternative to those players that are currently sitting second, third or fourth in the pecking order at their more competitive franchises to get some regular front-line minutes. They could take on leadership roles, plus dictate team patterns and performance.
The tournament may be a bit of a throwback to 2017, but if we don’t study the past then we are destined to repeat its mistakes. Let’s just hope that lessons can be learnt this time around.