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The home side head into this year’s tournament as one of the favourites to qualify from the Australian Conference and know that an impressive showing in this fixture is imperative if they want to build momentum during the rest of the tournament.
Although the Force finished at the bottom of the Australian Conference, and despite suffering a big loss when these sides met in Perth last year, they will fancy their chances against the 2014 champions as they beat them in three of their last four matches.
Despite claiming a one-sided win in the corresponding fixtures between these sides last year, Waratahs boss Daryl Gibson expects the Force to offer his charges a tough challenge.
“The Force have recruited cleverly, I think they have an excellent spine of experience and have picked up some good players around them,” he said.
“I’m expecting the Force to be very competitive this season – a change of coach and change of direction to the style of game they play.
“We expect a really tough scrum battle against the Force. So I’ve picked the best scrumming front row I believe we’ve got as I really combat that area and make sure we’re strong.”
New Force head coach Dave Wessels knows a huge challenge awaits in 2017 – after they finished at the bottom of the Australian Conference in 2016.
Wessels is looking forward to this clash and is quietly confident his charges will give a good account of themselves.
“It’s always exciting to actually be able to start the season after a long pre-season, the team have worked very hard,” he said.
“What we’ve tried to do is reward the players who we feel have shown the most intensity in their work up until now, so as always there were a few players unlucky to miss out, but we’re very proud of the guys that will represent us this weekend.”
Wessels went on to say that while there are a few Super Rugby debuts in the team, these players have all played at a high level and are ready for the challenge.
“It’s fantastic for those players, but particularly because those guys are quite experienced rugby players,” he added.
“It might be their first game for the Western Force but they’ve played on the big stage before and are ready to play.”
Waratahs: 15 Andrew Kellaway, 14 Reece Robinson, 13 Israel Folau, 12 Irae Simone, 11 Rob Horne, 10 Bryce Hegarty, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Michael Wells, 7 Michael Hooper (c), 6 Jack Dempsey, 5 Will Skelton, 4 Dean Mumm, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Tolu Latu, 1 Tom Robertson
Replacements: 16 Hugh Roach, 17 Paddy Ryan, 18 David Lolohea, 19 David McDuling, 20 Brad Wilkin, 21 Matt Lucas, 22 David Horwitz, 23 Taqele Naiyaravoro
Western Force: 15 Dane Haylett-Petty, 14 Luke Morahan, 13 Curtis Rona, 12 Bill Meakes, 11 Chance Peni, 10 Jono Lance, 9 Ryan Louwrens, 8 Richard Hardwick, 7 Kane Koteka, 6 Brynard Stander, 5 Adam Coleman, 4 Ross Haylett-Petty, 3 Jermaine Ainsley, 2 Heath Tessmann (c), 1 Pek Cowan
Replacements: 16 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 17 Ben Daley, 18 Tetera Faulkner, 19 Matt Philip, 20 Isireli Naisarani, 21 Michael Ruru, 22 Ian Prior, 23 Alex Newsome