Force's new recruit says Kiwi talent pool is overflowing

WESTERN Force's New Zealand recruit Willie Ripia expects the migration of Kiwis across the Tasman to continue in Super rugby.

Ripia, who has signed a two-year contract with the Force, will occupy the team's emerging foreign player spot, while his former Hurricanes team-mate David Smith is the side's marquee import.

Force prop Tim Fairbrother also went to Perth from the Hurricanes.

There are several New Zealanders on the rosters of the other four Australian teams, including Sosene Anesi (Waratahs), Michael Harris (Reds) and Greg Somerville (Rebels).

"New Zealand is spoilt for talent," Ripia said. "They have so much talent that a lot of good players don't get a run.

"I can definitely see a lot more New Zealanders coming over. The rugby is just as good here as it is over there. You'll definitely see more players flying over the ditch."

Ripia, who began his Super career with the Highlanders before joining the Hurricanes, is hoping to gain valuable game time with the Force.

The Hurricanes have a near-All Blacks backline, including rookie New Zealand five-eighth Aaron Cruden, who was the preferred number 10 in Wellington.

"After the Super rugby season, I got a call from John Mitchell (former Force coach) and he asked me what I wanted in my career," Ripia said.

"The Force were looking for a 10 and I was looking to get more game time at 10. I also wanted to do something different and Perth was a great avenue for that. It wasn't that hard a decision."

Five-eighth has been a problem position for the Force since Matt Giteau returned to the Brumbies, but Ripia is looking forward to solving it. "I enjoy the pressure of playing 10," Ripia said. "I can play halfback to fullback. If I have to, I can do that, but I prefer to stay at 10."

Ripia will have the responsibility of directing a talented Force backline, which includes Wallabies James O'Connor and Cameron Shepherd and now Smith.

"The Force have some awesome players," Ripia said.

"I'll be able to learn off the likes of James O'Connor.

"It will be good.

"We are hoping to play some good footy."

After entering the Super rugby competition in 2006, the Force is yet to make the play-offs.

But Ripia is confident Western Force will compete for a place in the new top-six play-off format next year.

"The Force have always been a good team," Ripia said.

"They had a lot of injuries at the start of this year, but they played well at the end.

"If they can continue that form, we are going to be very hard to beat."

Ripia, 25, will become eligible to play for the Wallabies in three years, but at the moment he is concerned only about the Force.

"If I was playing well enough and it came up, there's no reason why I would say no, but that's a long time from now," he said.

"I want to put everything I can into the Force."

NSW Waratahs second-rower Cam Jowitt's comeback has received a setback after he had to undergo a second operation on his troublesome ankle.

Jowitt sustained the injury in the Waratahs' win against the Queensland Reds in Brisbane in the opening round of last season and has not played since.

Waratahs coach Chris Hickey is hopeful Jowitt will be fit to play in February or March.

Meanwhile, referee Steve Walsh will control his first Six Nations game since 2008 when he officiates in the match between England and France at Twickenham on February 26.