Emirates Western Force Head Coach John Mitchell has announced his team for Friday night’s Investec Super 14 Week 2 clash with the Cheetahs at Subiaco Oval.
A Rugby WA media release reports that Mitchell has made five changes to his starting lineup and injected fresh blood to the reserves bench following last week’s 25-19 season-opening loss to the Blues.
2009 signings Ben Castle and Josh Valentine will make their first Super 14 appearance for the WA side, with Castle having recovered from a neck injury and Valentine a minor hamstring strain.
Castle, a 42-cap Super Rugby veteran with the Chiefs, will become the 50th player to represent the Emirates Western Force in Super 14 competition since the team’s inception in 2006.
The former Junior Black prop will be joined in the front row by Gareth Hardy, who returns to the lineup after missing out on selection for the season opener against the Blues last Friday.
Mitchell has also re-shuffled his backline, calling 18-year-old James O’Connor into the starting XV at inside centre and Nick Cummins at right wing.
O’Connor comes into the midfield to partner Ryan Cross, who remains in doubt for the match with shoulder bruising despite being named in his customary No.13 jersey.
Local front row product Kieran Longbottom joins the reserves bench looking to add to his 3 career caps, while the Friday night clash will also see the welcomed return of Scott Staniforth.
Staniforth has been named on the reserves bench after finally recovering from a knee injury which saw him miss the final four matches of the 2008 season.
Following his last Super 14 match, against the Reds in Week 10 of last season, Staniforth underwent exploratory surgery on his left knee and missed the remainder of the season before returning for the WA side’s development tour of England.
In just the first match on tour, against the Newcastle Falcons, the 12-Test veteran aggravated the injury again, forcing a second surgery and ultimately delaying the start to his 2009 Super 14 campaign.
Mitchell said that his players were hurting after the opening week loss to the Blues and were determined to bounce back in front of their home fans.
“The boys were very disappointed in their performance last Friday and are very much looking forward to the opportunity to turn things around this weekend,” said Mitchell.
“There were some positives from the performance but we certainly need better finishing and needto maintain our physicality throughout the contest.”
In the corresponding round last season, Matt Giteau kicked a match-winning penalty goal after the full-time siren had sounded to steal victory from the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein. The final score on that occasion was 16-15 to the Emirates Western Force.
The WA side has never lost a Super 14 match to the Cheetahs, winning all three encounters since both sides entered the competition in 2006.
2009 Investec Super 14 Week 2
Emirates Western Force v Cheetahs
Friday 20 February, 2009
Subiaco Oval, Perth
Kick off: 7.45pm WDST (12:45 SA time)
1. Gareth Hardy
2. Tai McIsaac
3. Ben Castle
4. Pat O’Connor
5. Nathan Sharpe (c)
6. Tamaiti Horua
7. David Pocock
8. Richard Brown
9. Josh Valentine
10. Matt Giteau
11. Drew Mitchell
12. James O’Connor
13. Ryan Cross
14. Nick Cummins
15. Cameron Shepherd
16. Luke Holmes
17. Kieran Longbottom
18. Tom Hockings
19. Matt Hodgson
20. Chris O’Young
21. Josh Tatupu
22. Scott Staniforth