Emirates Western Force Head Coach John Mitchell has announced his team for Saturday night’s Investec Super 14 Week 3 clash with the Brumbies at Canberra Stadium.
Mitchell has once again made five changes to his starting lineup in a bid to bolster his side’s mobility against the undefeated Canberra-based outfit.
A torn medial knee ligament will sideline Gareth Hardy for up to six weeks, opening the door for 21-year-old Pek Cowan to return to the starting lineup at loosehead prop.
Cowan will pack down alongside experienced duo Tai McIsaac and Ben Castle in the front row, while Tom Hockings has won his first run on appearance for the season at lock and Matt Hodgson will start in the number 6 jersey.
Hodgson has played just 25 minutes of each of the WA side’s opening two matches, but has been favoured for the weekend clash ahead of former Brumbies forward Tamaiti Horua.
Mitchell has also made changes to his backs division, moving 18-year-old James O’Connor to the reserves bench and calling on the experience of Junior Pelesasa at inside centre.
Pelesasa has spent the opening fortnight of the season confined to the sidelines whilst nursing a hamstring injury, while O’Connor himself has dealt with a sprained ankle during the week.
Emirates Western Force medical staff are confident the teenager has overcome the complaint, but will assess Cameron Shepherd’s condition ahead of game day before he is confirmed as a starter on the right wing.
Shepherd sat out last week’s hard-fought 16-10 victory over the Cheetahs with ankle soreness and will have his situation monitored during the team’s final two training sessions.
Drew Mitchell retains the fullback jersey after a strong showing against the Cheetahs, while another former Brumby in Richard Stanford joins the reserves bench.
Stanford was acquired from the Brumbies for the 2009 season by the Emirates Western Force after 6 appearances in the navy blue jersey.
The 22-year-old lock/flanker is in line to make his debut for the WA side, winning his first selection in the match 22.
Coach John Mitchell said his side was eagerly anticipating their first ‘derby’ showdown of 2009.
“The Australian derby matches always have that bit of extra feeling no matter who it is that’s playing, so we’re looking forward to the challenge on the start of our southern tour.”
“We’ve certainly gone for more mobility in the side, but again we are looking at getting the best out of our entire squad and have based selections on the best mix for the opposition,” said Mitchell.
The Emirates Western Force will cross the Tasman for two matches in New Zealand following the all-Australian showdown this Saturday night in Canberra.
Utility midfielder Josh Tatupu makes up the 23-man touring squad, which will depart for Canberra this afternoon.
2009 Investec Super 14 Week 3
Emirates Western Force v Brumbies
Saturday 28 February, 2009
Canberra Stadium, Canberra
Kick off: 7.40pm AEDST (5.40pm WDST)
Emirates Western Force
1. Pek Cowan
2. Tai McIsaac
3. Ben Castle
4. Tom Hockings
5. Nathan Sharpe (c)
6. Matt Hodgson
7. David Pocock
8. Richard Brown
9. Josh Valentine
10. Matt Giteau
11. Nick Cummins
12. Junior Pelesasa
13. Ryan Cross
14. Cameron Shepherd*
15. Drew Mitchell
16. Luke Holmes
17. Kieran Longbottom
18. Richard Stanford
19. Tamaiti Horua
20. Chris O’Young
21. James O’Connor
22. Haig Sare