The Western Force continue to prepare for its first away fixture of the Super Rugby Trans-Tasman season against the Hurricanes in Napier at McLean Park on Friday night.
Head coach Tim Sampson has named a strong match day 23, with four changes made to the starting 15.
Hooker Andrew Ready makes his first start of the campaign, with Feleti Kaitu’u moving the bench.
Former All Black Jeremy Thrush returns to the side after a minor injury ruled him out of the Highlanders game last Friday. The experienced lock will face his former side on the Super Rugby stage for the first time since moving to the Force.
Argentinian Domingo Miotti starts at flyhalf alongside compatriot Tomás Cubelli, with Jake McIntyre having suffered a concussion in the Round 2 match with the Highlanders.
Toni Pulu will be celebraing a milestone as he makes his return to the side, with the winger having served his suspension. Pulu starts at 14 in his 50th Super Rugby appearance, with English speedster Jordan Olowofela at 11 and Richard Kahui moving to 13.
Wallaby Tevita Kuridrani is also back in the match day 23. The centre is named on the bench alongside Jack McGregor, with the back returning to the squad.
Sampson said the squad is embracing the road trip and the challenge the Hurricanes present.
“We’re in a great place here in Napier. Hawke’s Bay Rugby Club have been very welcoming, and it feels like home,” Sampson explained.
“Toni provides spark for us. He’s full of energy and he’s raring to go. Tevita is itching to get back. He’s a player that has played a lot of rugby over here against New Zealand and provides impact off the bench. Having that experience coming on at the back end of the game is going to be important for us.”
“The Hurricanes are a well-rounded team with a lot of strike power. If we apply pressure defensively in certain areas, then we’re positive about controlling the game. We’ve prepared well and we’re looking forward to Friday.”
1,Tom Robertson, 2. Andrew Ready, 3. Santiago Medrano, 4. Jeremy Thrush, 5. Sitaleki Timani, 6. Fergus Lee-Warner, 7. Kane Koteka, 8. Tim Anstee, 9. Tomás Cubelli, 10. Domingo Miotti, 11. Jordan Olowofela, 12. Kyle Godwin (c), 13. Richard Kahui, 14. Toni Pulu, 15. Rob Kearney.
16. Feleti Kaitu’u, 17. Angus Wagner, 18. Greg Holmes, 19. Ryan McCauley, 20. Brynard Stander, 21. Ian Prior, 22. Jack McGregor, 23. Tevita Kuridrani.