The Western Force have added depth to their second row stocks with the signing of Matt Philip and Richie Arnold for the 2017 Super Rugby season.
The two men have taken very different paths to this point but say they are excited by the opportunity and what lies ahead in 2017.
Philip, a former Australian Schoolboys and Australian Under 20s representative was called into the Force squad in a training capacity last season after injuries hit the club’s second row stocks before making his debut off the bench against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein.
After earning three caps in a whirlwind debut Super Rugby season Philip says he is thrilled to have signed with the Force after getting an opportunity last season.
“I’m really excited to come in and rip in,” he said. “Obviously there is a whole new environment at the Force now and I feel like there could be something special building at the club.”
“When I came over last season I had getting a contract for 2017 in mind every training session and every game. I felt like this was the place I wanted to be in the future so I’m stoked to be given the chance to come back.”
The 22-year-old heads West for pre-season after plying his trade in New Zealand’s Mitre10 Cup for Southland and says it has helped his game immensely.
“From playing over there you can tell why the All Blacks are so good. The skill level is so high, I think I learnt a lot and hopefully I can bring something back and contribute to the group.”
In contrast to Philip, Arnold has been with the Western Force for almost a year now after joining the club last November and after suffering multiple injuries set-backs along the way the 208-cm giant is ready to get on the park in 2017.
The identical twin of Brumbies and Wallabies lock, Rory Arnold, Richie says he is excited to begin playing rugby again after plenty of painstaking rehabilitation and will be using the pre-season to begin mounting his case for a debut.
“I’m super happy to have resigned with the Western Force,” he said. “This year I’ve had a pretty bad season with injury which was tough but that’s rugby.”
“At the moment the body feels really good, it’s been a little over three months since the shoulder reconstruction so come pre-season I’ll be able to do most of the running and work myself into the contact training.”
“Being on the sidelines and doing rehabilitation work for the whole of last season was hard because you want to be out there playing but it has definitely increased my drive for the 2017 season and hopefully I can make my debut.”
Western Force Head Coach Dave Wessels says the signing of the second row pair is a strong move for the club as they continue to add depth to the forward pack for the 2017 season.
“It’s great to have Richie on board. He has taken a little while to get his body right but there is a great Afrikaans saying which is ‘vroeg ryp vroeg vrot’ which is means ‘if you ripen early, then you rot early’, so we think Richie will be great for us.”
“I’m really excited to see how Richie goes this year because he has had to work so hard for it. He has all the attributes to be a world class player, he’s a very big man, he’s aggressive and most importantly he really wants this opportunity, so we are looking forward to getting a full season out of him.”
“Matty is an example of someone who got half a sniff and really made the most of it. When he came in last year he really showed a desire to learn and his ability to understand information tells me that he can certainly play elite level rugby.”
“Matt has been very dedicated to getting his body to the point where he can physically hold his own at Super Rugby and we are looking to get a full preseason out of him to develop that even further.”
“The spots in that second row have become really competitive for us with Richie, Matt, Ben Matwijow, Ross Haylett-Petty and Adam Coleman all fighting it out.
The 2017 Western Force squad will begin their pre-season on Monday, 7 November.
2017 Memberships on sale now. http://bit.ly/2017Memberships
Name: Richie Arnold
Born: 11/06/1990, Wagga Wagga
Representative Rugby: 2015 Queensland Country
Name: Matt Philip
Born: 07/03/1994, Mona Vale, Australia
Representative Rugby: Australian Schoolboys, Australian U20