The Western Force will be going to battle this Saturday night against the Chiefs in the inaugural Super Rugby Trans-Tasman season opener at HBF Park.
With the Force fresh from a week off following their historic finals campaign, and the Chiefs having narrowly missed out on the Super Rugby Aotearoa title last Saturday in the Grand Final, it’s set to be an epic clash between the two sides.
Head coach Tim Sampson welcomes crucial creativity and experience into the starting 15, with backs duo Rob Kearney and Jake McIntyre making their return from injury at fullback and flyhalf respectively.
Henry Taefu makes his second start of the year at inside centre, with captain Kyle Godwin alongside him at outside centre.
Homegrown talent Ollie Callan is poised to make his first appearance of the Super Rugby season, with the 20-year-old flanker named in the matchday 23.
Sampson is expecting a fast-paced and high-octane encounter in front of the Sea of Blue.
“We are really excited, especially given the fact it’s the first time we’ll be playing a New Zealand Super Rugby team since 2017. It’s a wonderful opportunity to face clubs of this calibre again,” Sampson explained.
“Rob (Kearney) and Jake (McIntyre) bring invaluable experience. Jake has played Super Rugby against New Zealand’s sides earlier in his career for the Queensland Reds and performed really well. Rob has a spring in his step this week and will provide a level head that will serve us well, especially given his experience against the All Blacks in his career.
“The entertainment value will certainly be there in this competition, which is great. I think our supporters will really enjoy the style of play and we like to play a similar brand of rugby, so it’s sure to be a great spectacle on Saturday night.”
1,Tom Robertson, 2. Feleti Kaitu’u, 3. Santiago Medrano, 4. Jeremy Thrush, 5. Fergus Lee-Warner, 6. Tim Anstee, 7. Kane Koteka, 8. Brynard Stander, 9. Tomás Cubelli, 10. Jake McIntyre, 11. Jordan Olowofela, 12. Henry Taefu, 13. Kyle Godwin (c), 14. Richard Kahui, 15. Rob Kearney.
16. Andrew Ready, 17. Angus Wagner, 18. Greg Holmes, 19. Ryan McCauley, 20. Ollie Callan, 21. Ian Prior, 22. Domingo Miotti, 23. Jake Strachan