The Western Force were left counting the cost of their impressive come-from-behind 23-all draw with the Crusaders at the weekend, as a number of key players were still in the casualty room on Monday.
With two wings – Cameron Shepherd and Nick Cummings – in doubt for their crucial home game against the Sharks on Saturday, Force coach John Mitchell may consider starting with utility back Scott Staniforth – who has only played off the bench this year.
Shepherd, who played on the wing against the Crusaders before limping to the bench in the second half, is set for a week on the sidelines after spraining his ankle. It was the same ankle he broke while playing for the Wallabies last year.
Cummins (hamstring) is rated only a 50-50 chance to face the Sharks, which could see Mitchell start with Haig Sare and Staniforth on the wings.
Staniforth, who underwent knee surgery during the off-season, played 12 minutes off the bench against the Cheetahs in Round Two but was left out of the squad for the Force’s three-game road trip to Canberra and New Zealand.
Force prop Ben Castle has been cleared of any serious damage to his neck and shoulder and is likely to take his place against the Sharks.
The Force (12 points) sit four points adrift of the top four but Mitchell felt the team was in good shape after snaring a bonus-point win and a draw from their three-game road trip.
However, with home games against the Sharks, Reds and Hurricanes to come in the next four weeks, Mitchell is eager to see his charges impose themselves at Subiaco Oval.
Since their inception in 2006, the Force have won just eight of their 21 matches at the venue.
“It’s very tight on the ladder so we just have to look after our own backyard against the Sharks,” Mitchell told AAP.
“We are one of few sides in Australia and New Zealand that have been on the road for three weeks so to get seven out of 12 points is pleasing.”
Skipper Nathan Sharpe said spirits were high after the testing road trip.
“We’ve been on the road, we’ve finished our biggest road trip and we’ve gone through half our away games now,” Sharpe said.
“There’s plenty of games left at home and that leaves us in good shape.
“It’s a big game for us this weekend and we certainly want to focus on getting the job done at home against the Sharks.”Tweet