Emirates Western Force Head Coach John Mitchell has announced his team for Friday night’s Investec Super 14 Week 5 clash with the Crusaders at AMI Stadium in Christchurch.
The Western Force Website reports that Mitchell has named three changes to the starting XV following his side’s 31-13 defeat to the Chiefs in Hamilton last Friday, two of which are to the forward pack.
51-match veteran David Pusey will start at lock for the first time since the final match of the 2008 season, replacing Tom Hockings who moves to the reserves bench for the battle with the seven-time Super rugby champions.
2009 recruit Richard Stanford is set for his first run on appearance in his new colours after winning a chance at blindside flanker. The match will also be Stanford’s Super 14 debut as a starter after earning his six caps with the Brumbies as a replacement.
Stanford’s selection in the number 6 jersey pushes Tamaiti Horua back to Number 8, a position he has played just once in his 10 appearances for the WA side.
Last week’s Number 8 Matt Hodgson returns to the bench.
Mitchell has also made one change to his backs, recalling James O’Connor at inside centre and returning Junior Pelesasa to the reserves bench.
O’Connor last started in the number 12 jersey against the Cheetahs in Week 2, and saw just 21 minutes of action against the Chiefs last week after not taking the field in the Week 3 victory over the Brumbies in Canberra.
Mitchell said despite their injury concerns, the Crusaders will be desperate for victory on the weekend to keep pace with the competition leaders.
“History shows they don’t often suffer repeat losses and they’ll be throwing everything at us on Saturday night,” said Mitchell.
“What’s important is that we respond with the same urgency and finish our tour with a strong performance after our result in Hamilton.”
The 23-man touring squad will depart Queenstown today, where they have spent the past four days preparing for the clash with the defending champions, and hold their final training session at AMI Stadium tomorrow
2009 Investec Super 14 Week 5
Emirates Western Force v Crusaders
Saturday 14 March, 2009
AMI Stadium, Christchurch, NZ
Kick off: 5.30pm NZ (1.30pm AWDST)
1. Pek Cowan
2. Tai McIsaac
3. Ben Castle
4. David Pusey
5. Nathan Sharpe (c)
6. Richard Stanford
7. David Pocock
8. Tamaiti Horua
9. Josh Valentine
10. Matt Giteau
11. Cameron Shepherd
12. James O’Connor
13. Ryan Cross
14. Nick Cummins
15. Drew Mitchell
16. Luke Holmes
17. AJ Whalley
18. Tom Hockings
19. Matt Hodgson
20. Chris O’Young
21. Junior Pelesasa
22. Haig Sare