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The Waratahs host the Western Force on Saturday evening at the Sydney Cricket Ground. Join The Roar for live scores and a blog of the match, starting from 7:15pm AEST.
May the force be with you! It is certainly with all of us now after three years in limbo. They were saved and sustained by Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest during the limbo years, who shrink wrapped the occidental team with an accidental international competition.
While there may not be too many Jedi masters in either team on the paddock today, there are a few Padawans (future Jedis) in the Waratahs’ unit and Mandalorians (warriors good enough to challenge Jedis) from the Force squad.
The first Mandalorian that comes to mind is Greg Holmes, who returns to play against his old enemy from his days at the Queensland Reds. Another ex-Red is Andrew Ready. Like Holmes, he will run in from the bench. The third is Jono Lance, who will start as flyhalf. His fullback is 23-year-old Jack McGregor, one of the leading national flyhalves three years ago, but he never got a chance during his stint in Melbourne.
The Force thrashed the Waratahs three years ago as underdogs who felt they were dealt a harsh blow by the evil empire of the east. Today, the more mature Force face a bunch of newbies.
Lance’s opponent, Will Harrison, played fairly well last week in terms of place kicks and attacking prowess, and he showed improving maturity in managing the Waratahs’ game. The Rob Simmons/Ned Hanigan combination assassinated the Reds’ lineout last week, which missed Izack Rodda. The Waratahs will surely target the Force lineout today.
Waratahs back-row hitman Lachlan Swinton’s toughness delivers the kind of grit missing from the Tahs since the days of Jacques “Jackpot” Potgieter. Twenty-year-old Will Harris is light, but seems to have a Sean McMahon toughness that is waiting to be unleashed. Maybe we will witness it today.
Grit is something the Western Force have prided themselves on over many years, especially since their sponsorship woes, which precipitated a player exodus around ten years ago.
Twiggy’s tough and experienced campaigners will make life tough for the inexperienced Tahs in the first stanza. If NSW can maintain their composure, deliver a stable scrum, and improve on last week’s performance they should deliver their first Super Rugby AU win.
To overcome the bookies’ odds, the Western Force need to shake off their rust very quickly. They need to attack and defend cohesively in a competition that operates more quickly and more powerfully over a sustained period of time. They should try to disrupt and disorient their youthful opponents, and force them to a form of disarray.
In the end, their win may be as likely as Chewbacca’s chances as an opera singer. But as I mentioned last week, it’s their first game back. So who really knows?
Kick-off: 7:15pm (AEST)
Venue: Sydney Cricket Ground
TV: Fox Sports
Live stream: Kayo Sports, Foxtel
Referee: Angus Gardner
Assistant ref 1: Amy Perrett
Assistant ref 2: James Quinn
TMO: James Leckie
15. Jack Maddocks, 14. James Ramm, 13. Alex Newsome, 12. Joey Walton, 11. Mark Nawaqanitawase, 10. Will Harrison, 9. Mitch Short, 8. Will Harris, 7. Michael Hooper, 6. Lachlan Swinton, 5. Rob Simmons (captain), 4. Ned Hanigan, 3. Harry Johnson-Holmes, 2. Robbie Abel, 1. Angus Bell.
Replacements: 16. Tom Horton, 17. Tetera Faulkner, 18. Tiaan Tauakipulu, 19. Tom Staniforth, 20. Jack Dempsey, 21. Michael McDonald, 22. Ben Donaldson/Tepai Moeroa, 23. Karmichael Hunt.
15. Jack McGregor, 14. Byron Ralston, 13. Marcel Brache, 12. Nick Jooste, 11. Brad Lacey, 10. Jono Lance, 9. Ian Prior, 8. Brynard Stander, 7. Tevin Ferris, 6. Henry Stowers, 5. Fergus Lee Warner, 4. Jeremy Thrush, 3. Kieran Longbottom, 2. Feleti Kaitu’u, 1. Angus Wagner.
Replacements: 16. Andrew Ready, 17. Chris Heiberg, 18. Greg Holmes, 19. Johan Bardoul, 20. Ollie Callan, 21. Jacob Abel, 22. Henry Taefy, 23. Kyle Godwin.