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Put simply the only way is up for the Force following that poor game against the Waratahs while the Reds will have their tails up after they overcame the Sharks. Nick Stiles will therefore be determined to build on that win and claim a result that takes them provisionally top.
Only once before this century have the Reds won their first two games of a season and they will be eager to do just that as they go west. They’ve the players to get the win as Stephen Moore, George Smith, Quade Cooper and Samu Kerevi’s quality makes them favourite.
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A positive for the Force to take into this match is that they have won five of their last eight games against the Reds, including a 22-6 victory in their last meeting. The Reds meanwhile have lost each of their last eight games away from home so simply must improve on the road.
Furthermore, five of the Force’s last six victories have come against Australian rivals, their win against Sunwolves last season the only exception in this run. However anything similar to how they performed against the Waratahs last weekend and hoodoos will count for little.
In Sydney the Force made a total of 63 passes and 172 metres with ball in hand the whole game. Breaking it down their top metre maker was Dane Haylett-Petty on 36, with the team making a total of three clean breaks in the 80 minutes. Those are worrying numbers.
The Reds should therefore prevail due to the aforementioned players in their arsenal. Cooper displayed glimpses of his class against the Sharks while Higginbotham’s always a threat, as is Kerevi. Throw in Smith, Moore and James Slipper’s experience and they look solid.
Let’s then hope for a contest as entertaining as last week’s in Brisbane, not that disappointing Sydney spectacle, for those who turn out to support the Force, with head coach Dave Wessels urging fans to back their team.
“We are very excited to play in front of our home crowd for the first time this season, and I think there is a rallying call for West Australians, that if you love rugby and if you want to see Super Rugby continue in this state, whether you support the Force or not, you need to come on Thursday night,” he said in a call to arms for the locals to help recreate the fortress they had in past seasons.
The last time these teams met: The Reds suffered a shock 22-6 loss at home last year in Round 2, a result which followed a defeat to the Waratahs. Force fly-half Jono Lance kicked five penalties out of five to Ayumu Goromaru’s two from four before a last-minute try from Luke Morahan, converted by Ian Prior, added the gloss on a solid win for the Force. The loss led to Richard Graham’s sacking at the Reds.
Force: 15 Dane Haylett-Petty, 14 Luke Morahan, 13 Curtis Rona, 12 Billy Meakes, 11 Chance Peni, 10 Jono Lance, 9 Ryan Louwrens, 8 Brynard Stander, 7 Kane Koteka, 6 Ross Haylett-Petty, 5 Adam Coleman, 4 Matt Philip, 3 Jermaine Ainsley, 2 Heath Tessmann (c), 1 Ben Daley
Replacements: 16 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 17 Pek Cowan, 18 Tetera Faulkner, 19 Richard Hardwick, 20 Isi Naisarani, 21 Michael Ruru, 22 Ian Prior, 23 Alex Newsome
Reds: 15 Karmichael Hunt, 14 Chris Kuridrani, 13 Samu Kerevi, 12 Duncan Paia’aua, 11 Eto Nabuli, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Nick Frisby, 8 Scott Higginbotham, 7 George Smith, 6 Adam Korczyk, 5 Kane Douglas, 4 Rob Simmons, 3 Sam Talakai, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 James Slipper (c)
Replacements: 16 Andrew Ready, 17 Sef Fa’agase, 18 Taniela Tupou, 19 Izack Rodda, 20 Hendrik Tui, 21 James Tuttle, 22 Jake McIntyre, 23 Izaia Perese