Forwards: Rudi Vedelago, John Welborn, David Pusey, Tai McIsaac, Brendan Cannon, Scott Fava, Nathan Sharpe, AJ Whalley (prop), Matt Windle (back row/lock, Gold Coast Captain), Angus Scott (prop), Gareth Hardy (prop), Matt Hodgson (lossie, Aus & Captain), Luke Holmes (hooker), Richard Brown(lossie), Tim Davidson (lossie Syd Uni captain), Luke Doherty(lossie), David Fitter (prop), Pekahou Cowan (prop)
Backs: Brock James, Brett Stapleton, Junior Pelesasa, Digby Ioane, Matt Henjak, Scott Daruda, Cameron Shepherd, Chris O'Young (halfback), Zander Peden (centre/wing), Josh Graham (centre), James Hilgendorf (centre), Tajhon Mailata (fullback), Lachlan MacKay, Vitori Buatava (halfback), Scott Staniforth (wing)
Head Coach: The Former AB Coach John Mitchell
Virgin force team that will get bruised and battered as it grows into the Super 14 competition. The disharmony in the Reds couldn't have worked out better for the Force as they were able to snare 11, 2005 Reds squad members and a further 2 quality forwards from the Gold Coast who joined up on Alec Evans' (the new Forwards Coach for QLD) advise. The new Aus side has a lot of expectations on it both for the Super 14 and at Wallaby level. Aus will be looking forward to see if the Force can emulate the Brumbies early success in the Super 12 and for the Wallabies it provides another source of players as the inaugural Australian Provincial Championships only starts this year out of the 4 Super 14 sides and yes we do use the Super 12-14 to develop our rugby players unlike NZ and SA.
Expected Line up:
Fitter, Cannon, Hardy, Sharpe, Windle, Doherty, Hodgson, Fava. Henjack, MacKay, Ioane, Pelasasa, Graham, Staniforth, Shepard. Reserves: Scott, McIssacs, Vedelago, Welborn, O'Young, James, Stapelton
Front Row: Fitter, Cannon/McIssacs, Hardy although Angus Scott will be fighting hard for the tighthead spot.
Locks: Bloody hard to work out who will partner Sharpe. Vedelago, Welborn, Pusey, Windle are all quality players. Windle might get the nod ahead of the local boy Welborn due to his experience as captain of the Gold Coast.
Loosies: Once again bloody tough to work out who will be in the starting lineup beside Fava. Doherty gives them a very mean son of a bitch in 6 and I think Hodgson will beat Brown to the no 7. While Davidson (Sydney Uni captain) offers a hell of a lot in 6 or 8. All I know is that I wouldn't want to be the one who tells Vedelago, Welborn, Pusey, Windle or Davidson who will be sitting on the sideline for any game.
Halves: It's the battle of the understudy here but I recon that Henjack (Greegan's understudy) will get the nod ahead of Whitaker's understudy O'Young due to test experience. MacKay probably gets the nod ahead of James but no guarantee that Daruda might even get a shot at this spot. I don't see Daruda as an IC unlike James as he is just too small yet.
Centres: Pelesasa will get one spot here if he decides to play rugby all year and not turn off half way through the season once he signed a new contract. I think that James has a chance at IC as well while Graham isn't a bad player for OC either is Hilgendorf who might also get a shot at the fullback spot as well.
The back three: Shepard and Staniforth should be shoe-ins for full back or a wing spot. But the last spot is wide open, Hilgendorf may be used as a linkage with James while both Ioane and Stapelton will be hungry as well. Stapelton must be one of the fastest sons of a bitch I have ever seen run. He won a 100m sprint finals in a time of 10:33 seconds. He has played a bit of 7's and the rate this kid is being fast tracked through the Australian development programs is astonishing. Ioane is no slough either in the speed department either. He has already played for Aus U19, U21's, Australia 'A' and was a squad member of the last European tour. This kid is big and can move. I think he will just nudge ahead of Stapelton for the run on squad.
Not the best draw going around, 6 home games and 7 away but it's the last half of their season is the killer. With 5 of their last 6 games away in NZ against the Highlanders and Blues, home against the Crusaders and then 3 weeks in SA versus the Cats, Cheetahs and Sharks. While for most of their season they are going to be travelling as they only have 2 weeks consecutively at home.
I really see the Western Force having a very powerful forward pack and speed that makes the Thai stuff seam boring. I do believe they will be well drilled and play a hard but expansive game. It will really depend on their ability to win their early games in the season as the SA games are almost perfectly timed for them as both the Cats and Sharks have local derbies the week before they should be battered, bruised and emotionally drained. The Force has a lot of depth in key positions and this will help them. I will be expecting the Force to finish 6-8 in their first season.